Say “doomsday bunker” and most people would imagine a concrete room filled with cots and canned goods. The threat of global annihilation may feel as present as it did during the Cold War, but today’s high-security shelters could not be more different from their 20th-century counterparts. A number of companies around the world are meeting a growing demand for structures that protect from any risk, whether it’s another global pandemic, an asteroid, or World War III.
Going to the ground, or underground as the case may be has been a survival tactic since humans began roaming the earth. Underground is, and has been, the preferred way to protect humans from aerial bombs, radioactive fallout, chemical attacks, and even from certain biological contaminates. Underground bunkers however are not perfect, and they are not for everyone.
Are They Suitable For Long Term Survival?
As they are called, today’s underground shelters are not your granddad’s bomb shelter that was popular during the cold war era. Even though the bomb shelters constructed during the 1950s and placed in the backyard were touted as long-term shelter options, they really were not for long-term survival. The shelters were designed to shield the family or a group during bombing raids and from nuclear fallout.
The waste management system was a bucket and special bags, or chemicals, and gas masks would have been used to protect you from airborne contaminants. The only food and water available were what you had stockpiled. Canned water and canned rations were the staples. Spam on crackers anyone, the food had to be shelf-stable, and at the time canned foods were essentially the only option.
If you have the money and the real estate today, you can build or have built an underground bunker that could, in theory, sustain you for years. You can even buy a bunker apartment for when the SHTF. The underground living communities are self-sustaining, however.
The bunker cities would have hydroponic growing systems, air purification filters, oxygen generating systems, and UV lights in place to purify the air. The bunkers would have their own power plants, food production, and waste management systems.
The biggest problem would be fuel for the power generators because you cannot rely on one method only. Solar is fine as long as there is sunlight, but what happens if a volcano erupts and the ash cloud blocks the sun’s rays.
Wind power is another option, but maintenance is a problem, as well as lack of wind, and the systems of course would have to be above ground, creating another dilemma, because someone would have to suit up and go outside with a wrench in hand.
Wells could be under the bunker along with special septic systems to handle the waste. A certain amount of the garbage generated would probably be incinerated in some of the larger underground bunker communities, and/or there may be composting going on to break down the organic waste so it could be incorporated into the hydroponics system. Everything we take for granted today has to be incorporated into the bunker.
You cannot live for long anywhere without a food and water system in place to sustain you, and that system must be renewable for long-term survival.
A so-called stay put shelter would be cost-prohibitive for most people, and it would be impossible to build one without neighbors and local authorities knowing about it. Security once a disaster does strike is an important consideration. If everyone knows you have a state-of-the-art stand-alone stay-put shelter, you may get a few knocks on the door during a crisis.
Most of us do not have to worry about self-sustaining or renewable sources right now. The grocery stores and farmers take care of that for us, but when the stores are shuttered and the wheat and corn fields are charred and the soil contaminated, what would you do, what would we all do.
It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a bunker. If you run out of food and water and do not have a way of replenishing vital supplies, what do you have?
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Determine Your Need Then Decide
An underground bunker, properly constructed, would protect you from a nuclear blast provided you were in the bunker before the blast. However, if a nearby city was bombed, you move to the bunker to protect from the radioactive fallout.
Having a bunker that is accessible from inside your home is ideal, but this would require considerable planning and complicated construction methods. Having a bunker at your bug-out location is fine as long as you can get there. However, if the bunker is 200 miles away and a nuclear blast occurs between you and your bunker, where does that leave you?
You would have to be able to get to any shelter during an attack and of course the closer the better. Some companies offer bunker apartments that may afford you the protection needed, but you still have to get there during an attack.
A bunker would protect you from a tornado and some homes in areas prone to tornados have special bunkers or rooms just for protection from a tornado. However, a traditional tornado shelter is only designed for a few hours of occupancy.
Would an underground bunker protect you from a wildfire? One may, but for how long. The air filtration system could be overwhelmed quickly, and the fire may very well destroy any above-ground power generating systems. Soil does trap heat so the depth of the bunker is important as well.
A bunker would not provide much protection from an earthquake, but it is possible that you could use it as a shelter after the earthquake. However, you could be trapped in one because of the damage created if you ran to it during the initial shock waves. Aftershocks could buckle the entrance/exit or topple trees or buildings preventing you from exiting, or the earthquake may even heave the bunker out of the ground.
Underground bunkers would not offer much protection from a flood and the water could even cause your bunker to float to the surface. Of course, much depends on the bunker. You would have to have one constructed with specific disasters in mind because each one requires specific construction methods to ensure they can withstand the crisis and protect you.
Bunkers would protect you from civil unrest as long as there is not a targeted attack against the bunker. Solar panels, wind turbines, and any power generating systems above ground could be vandalized. You could be “starved out” as well, while this would be extreme, it is something that is a possibility if you come under siege.
Only one way in and out is counter to any sensible security measures. The exit could be blocked due to the disaster or blocked by someone or a group, thus, trapping you inside. The entrance/exit could be breached, as well, allowing others inside, and if you only had one door in and out, then you have problems. Ideally, you would have a backdoor, as well as, an emergency escape hatch.
Having the means to monitor the exits from inside the bunker would be sensible but costly. You could check for hazards before opening the hatch, so having a camera system in place would be ideal.
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