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  1. Question about shelters: I have been looking recently at building a fallout shelter but often times the price that companies want for them are not only beyond my reach, but many of their preexisting designs are not something I would be interested in. I could care less about a kitchen and TV room in my shelter.

    So, my question is, with looking at early civil defense recommendations, does anyone have any knowledge and thoughts if these older designs are worthwhile? Meaning, do they REALLY work, or are they more for FEELING safe. Also, any ideas on how to build a ceiling in an existing basement?

    1. Kearney had this warning in NWSS, “WARNING: Permanent home fallout and blast shelters described in widely available FEMA pamphlets have protection factors in line with the PF 40 minimum standard for public shelters in buildings. In heavy fallout areas a sizable fraction of the occupants of PF 40 shelters will receive radiation doses large enough to incapacitate or kill them later. Permanent shelters built specifically to protect against nuclear weapon effects should have PFs much higher than PF 40.”, http://www.oism.org/nwss/s73p916.htm

      In recent years, the recommendation seems to be PF 1024 or higher, 10 layers of shielding, https://survivalblog.com/radiation-protection-factors-f/

      You might consider some of these, https://survivalblog.com/letter-earthbag-shelter/, or https://survivalblog.com/letter-re-food-storage-in-the-southern-united-states-2/

    2. If you can get your hands on some of the old FEMA shelter building plan from the 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, there were a number of plans to retro fit an existing basement. Some of these were as simple as a lean-to in the corner of a basement to building a small room with sand or cement filled cinder block walls and a lowered (and supported) ceiling filled with solid cement bricks. Try Amazon as I’ve seen books that have some of these old shelter plans from that era. Also, I think a fallout PF of 40 is way too little. 100 or 250 should be the minimum depending upon your proximity to likely target areas.

  2. Just yesterday, someone was telling me of going through a hurricane, in a regular home, inadequate shelter, due to a faulty forecast which led to some bad decision making.

    As Kearney said, “Shelter, the Greatest Need.” It is the one thing that takes planning, time and resources. A shelter should account for risks from floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and nuclear events. There are areas with very little existing sheltered protection from fallout for tens of millions of people.

    I would encourage all folks to construct shelters, if possible, where they live. These could have secondary uses for storage, guest rooms, etc…

    Earthbags are an option.

    For all the YouTube videos, there are very few that cover a low cost fallout shelter that the masses could construct. Something with overhead protection from fallout seems to be really hard to do… Kearney’s expedient shelters are an option, but as he states, a more permanent shelter is better.

  3. Food for thought. There are a couple of items that popped into my mind about living in a bunker for an extended time period that might be useful. Time will drag and change perspective. How to keep track of time? A good clock and a calendar seem like a necessity as outside references will be lacking and days will be hard to keep track of. A couple of cheap watches with days and date capability should work. Maintaining a daily routine will also help, Awake and sleep cycles, exercise, meal times etc. I am also looking into installing some type of fiber optic light system to help normalize the day cycle and lower the power demand.

  4. For those who aren’t following the topic too closely, there are a number of hardened targets in the US that are likely to draw a ground-burst in the event of a nuclear war.

    Those include the Minuteman III silos and command centers in Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana, command and control centers like Cheyenne Mountain, Site R, Mt Weather, etc, the SLBM bases in Washington State and Georgia, and the B-2 and B-52 bases in Missouri and Texas. Any airport with a runway 10,000 feet or longer, can serve as an alternate B-52 base, and may be a target as well.

    (Note: Hard targets (buried underground) require a ground burst to kill. Softer targets, buildings, airports, cities, are typically engaged with Air-Bursts because of the enhanced blast effects from an air burst. Air-bursts cause relatively negligible fallout when compared to ground-bursts).

    As the wind direction in the upper levels is consistently Westerly or Southwesterly, if you live to the East or Northeast of one of these targets, you are much more likely to get fallout than if you live South or West of the target.

    (Note: weather patterns (High or Low pressure systems) can cause localized and short term changes in ground and low level fallout patterns. Which is why you need the radiation survey meter).

    This FEMA fallout map, developed in 1990, shows the potential fallout patterns from a Counterforce strike against the US. It should be noted that the SALT II reductions have eliminated some of the targets, particularly in the Mid-West.


  5. The risk of nuclear war is real. A nuclear war might mean as many as 4000 nuclear weapons detonated around the world. If that happens survival will be difficult and difficult to prepare for. Most of us will simply be killed in the first month or so either from a direct hit or from the consequences of the war.

    What is more likely is a limited exchange of nuclear weapons either by a rogue country or terrorist who acquire a nuke or two or three. The most likely target is Israel followed by Iran. Only slightly less likely is NYC or LA or DC or Paris or London. A nuclear event of this kind will be much more survivable unless of course you live at ground zero. History, simple logic and common sense tells us that sooner or later there will indeed be a nuclear exchange of some kind.

  6. Jim, can you recommend some type of manual blower air system for a shelter as you describe. The ones I have seen are way to pricey. Looking for a hand crank fan that can be hooked to flexible ducting to bring in filtered air from outside. Have already figured the HEPA filters, etc., but I can’t find a good quality (not China) hand operated blower. Thanks.

  7. What about a dome home? They are concrete, and can be buried underground. But, are there any windows that would survive such a blast? I know we have hurricane windows, but I cannot imagine any glass that would survive something nuclear. That leaves a dome home without windows, which would certainly not be preferable. However, dome homes are totally safe in hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornados.

    1. It depends on the thickness of the concrete [thin shell, not good for PF], see https://survivalblog.com/radiation-protection-factors-f/. The PF is probably only 2-4, not good.

      However, if it has been sufficiently reinforced, then you can add layers of shielding, maybe even beyond the standard PF 1024. Layers could be more concrete, dirt, sand, sandbags, earthbags, etc… Burying it is an option with low water tables…

      The hard part is always the entrance, you need that shielded turn, so that you can’t actually see into the shelter from the outside. A good place for a shower….

      The cheapest and fastest, I have seen is an AI Utility Dome kit, well reinforced, with three layers of earthbags [3ft of compressed road base] that brought the PF up to over 1024. You could probably do the same thing with the heavy duty zip tie dome… I would recommend the riser or silo options… If you stack the bags correctly, there is less pressure on the dome structure… Very labor intensive and a lot of work for 100 sqft…

      Monolithic would work great as well…
      Basalt roving could probably be used as well, but check with an engineer…

      The problem is that you end up with this huge mound that visitor’s can’t keep their eyes off of…

  8. Here is an excellent tool for determining blast and fallout effects for a multitude of nuclear weapons and strengths which are in current arsenals worldwide. This mapping program will also show fallout patterns, blast radius and safe distances from ground zero. You can center the blast anywhere you want.


  9. I own three shelters….so I’ll weigh in here. The Cresson Kearney book is highly recommended. It was this book that drove me to build permanent shelters for myself, friends, and eventually professionally. I’m semi-retiring soon, but like to share what I’ve learned, doing this for 30 years. The comments suggesting ten halving thicknesses are sound for fallout areas. That’s roughly forty inches of earth, or 27 inches of concrete. Please consult an architect for correct re-bar size and spacing, and support walls and spans. A ten or twelve foot wide shelter of any length is stronger than a larger square one. Shorter spans involved in the ceiling. Please have two entrances and make them rather small in volume….larger entrances admit more gamma energy. I prefer 48″ diameter corrugated steel pipe, welded at a 90 degree angle, with a ten foot horizontal leg and as much on the vertical leg as you can get (deeper burial of the shelter). There is no penalty for over-achievement when it comes to shielding. Roll the vertical leg of the elbow entrance over to about 60 degrees so you can use a stair instead of a ladder. Form this elbow into your concrete shelter area before you pour the concrete. Retro-fitting is possible, but the entrance will require a welded flange on the shelter end to bolt it to the shelter wall. Small holes can be drilled into the valley corrugations for use as a decontamination shower at the base of the stair. Bed any corrugated steel pipe you use (including a large pipe used as the shelter room) 3/4″ minus crushed rock for most of the diameter of the pipe, then use road base over the top for at least two feet. After that, any fill will suffice.
    Proper shelter ventilators are expensive because 1) they are worth it 2) The good ones, such as the Swiss units, are rigorously tested on shock sleds and in chemical weapons labs to certify that they will protect occupants from all known chemical and biological agents. The gas filters on the Andair AG ventilators will also capture Iodine 131 and other isotopes negating the need for thyroid block agents during the shelter stay. Good gas masks will also serve against the I-131. The Andair AG (formerly known as LUWA) units include blast valves, pre-filters, electric/manual air pump, and gas filter. Previous to the 9/11 attacks, the Swiss certified their gas filters for 2,000 hours of continuous use after unsealing them. However, endurance testing at the lab for one year in continuous operation proved the gas filters still able to absorb three heavy gas attacks. A fresh filter will absorb six heavy gas attacks. They remain effective against all biological aerosols indefinitely or until they are clogged (the pre-filter vastly extends the life of the gas filter).
    For those who simply cannot afford a premium air handler, a plywood box fabricated with an enclosed furnace filter and a DC axial computer fan of 6 inch diameter will capture a great deal of airborne fallout particles. A piece of furnace filter media taped over your air pipe will help. Avoid ventilation in the first several hours, during the heaviest periods of fallout deposition. This will extend the life of your filters.
    The intensity of the fallout dose rate will fall dramatically after the first 48 hours after an attack. Assuming (never a good idea) only one wave of a nuclear attack, the dose rate will deteriorate to 1/1000th of the dose rate an hour after fallout arrival. We don’t get to know how many attacks will occur, and over what period of time. Plan accordingly. A “rain-out” can cause fallout that would normally fall hundreds of miles away from your locale….to be pulled to the ground in your area. Scavenging….like cloud seeding, can cause dose rates to soar to as much as 12,000 rads per hour instead of a few hundred. That’s where a deeper shelter will make a huge difference. I prefer at least 8 feet of earth cover. Protection factor is over one million.
    An eight to ten foot diameter steel pipe shelter can be made if you are handy with tools and aren’t afraid to get dirty. Once finished, they are sure nicer than a Kearney shelter. Concrete shelters are fine if builders use enough of it! Bare minimum ceiling thickness should be 24 inches (PF500), and 30 inches is better. Swiss home shelter specification is 30 inches. This is insufficient for shelters within 7500 feet of a surface burst (prompt neutrons require a more robust shielding specification, and they turn corners in entrances much more readily. FEW people will have to be concerned with prompt neutrons.
    Government planners and many folks prefer to believe that limited nuclear war (or none at all) will be more likely than an all-out nuclear attack. That’s because this scenario is more manageable. That doesn’t mean the worst won’t occur. We don’t get to know.
    Do NOT attempt to use shipping containers for fallout shelters. They are NOT designed to support tons of earth overhead. The same thickness (12 gauge) of steel in a corrugated steel pipe can be safely buried to a depth of 43 feet because of its SHAPE. Submarines are cylindrical for a reason.
    You cannot store too much food and water. Consider post-attack bulk food stockpiles of rice, beans, corn, olive oil, salt, sugar sufficient to feed your family for a decade. All except the oil can be stored in less-than-ideal temperatures.
    After replacing many, many golf-cart batteries in our shelters over the years, we went to gel cells. My current gel cells are 15 years old and still working hard. Solar panels keep them constantly charged. Neglect them, and they will fail just like any other battery. These require gel-specific charge rates. Do not use a lead-acid charger on gels! Lead-acid golf cart batteries will work, they just don’t last as long as I’d like. Since your shelter’s battery bank will be the only power you will likely have for the rest of your life, consider 10, 20, 30 batteries, and make them gels for long life. The battery store will be CLOSED. You may need this power supply to run your home or a well pump, or any number of chores. Solar power is more practical in the long term than any generator/fuel set up. More panels are better than fewer. Have spares. The panel store will be closed, too!
    Former Secretary of Defense, Rick Perry, appeared in a segment of How The World Ends. I was interviewed as well. Perry said that nuclear war was more likely than ever, an opinion expressed by the author of this article. I concur. I also believe this government leaves its citizens in the dark when it comes to various threats, unlike the Russian government, which involves tens of millions of its citizens in shelter drills every two years. {Hint: They HAVE shelters.]
    Get busy!
    You can view a steel shelter by searching Youtube, “Pete Larson, Nat Geo”

  10. If we had an event such as this, what effect would it have on our nuclear power plants? If they were to meltdown the half life is MUCH worse if I’m not mistaken.

  11. What goes in must come out. If you store 53 pails of water, food, tp and other personal supplies, it will come out as refuse. This will have to be stored also and the smell factor will be unpleasant. If possible a “crib” septic with a covered hole for dumping would be an asset. Most people with indoor plumbing don’t realize how much they flush down.

  12. In addition to food and water, you need to stock up on food supplements. Especially Vitamin D. More and more, I am reading that this vitamin can prevent many degenerative conditions. Lack of Vitamin D may be the reason African-Americans are more susceptible to a number of diseases: cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, asthma. Dark skin inhibits the production of Vitamin D by sunlight. In Africa, there is plenty of sun, so it’s not a problem. In North America, it’s a problem, especially in the winter. And it will be a problem for you if you are living in a fallout shelter for months, without exposure to sunlight.

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