Non-Doomsday Shelters

Shows like Doomsday Bunkers, as well as certain survival websites and blogs, promote the idea of a doomsday shelter, an extremely secure shelter designed to wait-out any number of doomsday-like catastrophic events. They envision a scenario in which it is no longer safe to participate in society at large, and so you live in an underground bunker, or a converted missile silo, or an above-ground fortress, until the doomsday disaster passes. This same type of thinking prevailed in the 1950′s and 1960′s, out of fear of nuclear war. I’m not a fan of this approach.

First, I don’t think that an underground bunker is particularly safe, even if one assumes a severe disaster scenario. How will you obtain drinking water, food, electricity, fresh air, etc.? You can only store so much food and water. If there is a nuclear war, and the air above you is contaminated with radioactivity, you will not have a source of uncontaminated air. Fallout tends to fall downward, and settle in low lying areas, like your underground shelter. And if the power grid goes down, what will your source of power be? You can’t have your own nuclear power plant underground. Any above-ground renewable source of power is vulnerable to damage. It is just not practical.

Second, very many disaster scenarios are more likely, and would require a much more moderate response: natural disasters, non-nuclear war, civil unrest, economic collapse. These disasters do not necessitate living apart from the rest of society in a fortress or bunker. Why spend so much time and effort preparing for the most unlikely and most severe events, when lesser disasters are more common and easier to prepare for? And even in the case of a severe disaster, is it really best to wall yourself off from the rest of humanity? It think not. One of the best resources in times of greater or lesser difficulty is other human persons.

Third, the cost is absolutely prohibitive for the vast majority of preppers. It is much less expensive and much more cost effective to simply improve your existing home, making it more secure. If you buy an underground bunker, you will also need to supply it with an extreme amount of food, water, supplies, sources of power, air, etc. So the cost quickly increases beyond the cost of the structure itself.

And are you really safer in a converted missile silo, if an event such as a nuclear war occurs? Aren’t missile silos one of the top targets that the enemy would attack during a nuclear exchange? Maybe they know that your silo has been converted into upscale living quarters. Maybe they don’t know. Or maybe they’ll attack all missile silos, just to be on the safe side. I think you are less safe in a former missile silo than in a rural homestead.

Non-Doomsday Homes

The biggest advantage to a non-doomsday shelter, is that it is simply your home, with some additional security precautions added. This type of prepping can be done on any house, large or small. I think that a rural home, with at least a few acres of land, is preferable, but almost any home will do. You can reinforce the windows with plastic film, making it harder to break in, and protecting the home against storms. You can reinforce the doors, so that an intruder cannot simply kick in the door. You might want to buy a dog, or a few guns, for home defense. It does not take much time and effort, especially when spread out over a number of months or years, to improve the security of your home.

If you have the luxury of being able to move and buy a new home with some land, you might want to consider a home that has a certain degree of self-sufficiency built in. Solar panels, or solar plus a wind turbine, can provide off-grid power for a house. In rural areas and some of the sparser suburbs, you can have a well for water and your own septic system. The less dependent you are on local government for your daily needs, the better off you will be in times of severe disaster.

As for security, if you are building a new home, you can add specs such as hurricane-proof windows (these are better when built from scratch, rather than having plastic film added later), metal security doors for all exterior access points and for at least one interior door (so that a bedroom or other room can function as an ad hoc safe room), and a more secure garage door. Here in Florida, garage doors often have a “hurricane brace,” which makes it impossible for the garage door to be lifted up by wind (or by criminals). Some houses also have a type of hurricane accordion shutter that you pull across the windows and lock.

If you are thinking of moving, I strongly suggest avoiding cities. In almost any disaster, short or long-term, moderate or severe, you are worse off in the city. If there is no electricity, no running water, no trash pickup, empty shelves in stores, etc., you will be much better off if you have land. Self-sufficiency, even partial self-sufficiency, is very useful in almost any disaster scenario. But in a city, you are much more dependent on others and on the economic, political, and social system around you. And there are far too many ‘bad actors’ within a short distance of your home.

I don’t live in the city. But my ideal location would be a more rural area than my current location, with off-grid power, a well and septic system, and some land for growing food. Maybe someday.

– Thoreau

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