Many preppers have a considerable amount of stored supplies in the basement of their home. The basement is also the safest location in almost any building, from a one-story home to a multi-story office building, for protection from radioactive fallout. See my post: Nuclear Fallout: Which Room Is Safest? Other types of disasters might also necessitate using the basement as a shelter.
If your basement becomes a shelter for you and your family, you should know in advance that the basement (and the rest of your home) is not hazardous to your health due to radon. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that seeps into some homes in some location from the ground below. Radon might enter a home through:
* Cracks in solid floors
* Construction joints
* Cracks in walls
* Gaps in suspended floors
* Gaps around service pipes
* Cavities inside walls
* The water supply
The basement is the best place to test for radon. The gas can seep into the basement through the cement foundation. The closed nature of a basement allows the gas to build up. Test kits are left in the basement for a length of time (2-3 days), and then sent to a lab to have the results read. Make sure your test kit includes the lab fees.
Radon is a fixable problem, though it might not be cheap. One solution is better ventilation in the basement. Another is to seal the places through which radon gas might enter the home.
How harmful is radon gas? The EPA says that radon gas causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer cases in the U.S. They offer a chart of the Lifetime Risk of Lung Cancer Death from Radon Exposure in Homes. For non-smokers, the lifetime risk of lung cancer can go as high as 11% for the highest levels of radon. So it’s worth checking out. Test kits are inexpensive.