Paranoid Survival: Build Your Own Fallout Shelter

Magazine Fallout Shelter Rendering ( coverpage )

In the last Paranoid Survival you learned what to do in case of a nuclear attack, all that is fine, but what do you do now that you survived? The air is full of radioactivity, everything is contaminated and it’s about to rain ‘black rain’! You have to get to the fallout shelter! But wait. You don’t have one, do you? Well, it’s your lucky day, cause I am going to teach you how to build one!

Yes, my dear Paranoid Freaks, this week’s Paranoid Survival guide is going to be about how to build your own fallout shelter so you are not caught with the pants down when it happens.

So what the heck is a fallout shelter? A fallout shelter is a [preferably underground] structure, that provides protection and shielding against radioactive or hot dust/debris produced by a nuclear explosion or the crash of an asteroid/comet onto Earth’s surface.

During a nuclear explosion, matter vaporized in the resulting fireball is exposed to neutrons from the explosion, absorbs them, and becomes radioactive. When this material condenses in the rain, it forms dust and light sandy materials that resembles ground pumice. The fallout emits alpha and beta particles, as well as gamma rays. Much of this highly radioactive material then falls to earth, subjecting anything within the line of sight to radiation, a significant hazard. A fallout shelter is designed to allow its occupants to minimize exposure to harmful fallout until radioactivity has decayed to a safer level.

Source: Wikipedia

Hit the break and learn how to build your own.

Now, before we start, I am not responsible if you chop your arm off in the making of this shelter or if you are arrested by the police for building it illegally.
I am only providing the know-how, it’s up to you to get the permits (depending of the country or region you live in) or the adult supervision to build it. So don’t come crying with your booboo to me cause I’m all out of band-aids (I have some booboo’s of my own after building mine).

If you think that somehow this could go wrong, don’t do it. Just don’t. Your safety and your family’s safety is always first priority. Besides, some countries/states already have community blast/fallout shelters so you may not even need to build yours, ask your local emergency management office.

  1. First things first: You are going to need tools. Unless you like to dig with your bare hands I suggest you to get shovels to dig earth and picks for hard ground, Saws of all kinds to cut stuff, measuring tapes (measure twice, cut once), flashlights, ropes, work gloves, pliers, screwdrivers, etc. It’s also a good idea to get one or two buckets to take the soil out or bring the water in or even transport your tools. Buckets are always useful (especially when you’ve set something on fire by accident), so be sure to always have one at hand.
    And last but not least, a first aid kit. Remember what I said about the booboos.
    You also are going to need poles (something resistant is a good idea), rain-proof material (shower curtains, pool covers, plastic, etc. The thicker, the better)
  2. Get help! Especially if you plan to finish in less than a month. Assign tasks according to the strengths and weaknesses of your helpers. You don’t need brute force to measure and cut poles and you don’t need brains to lift heavy things (unless they do it with telekinesis).
  3. Start digging! Yes, this is the most time consuming part of the project. Some brute force and stamina would fit here like a glove!
    When digging, pile up the soil at least five feet away from the trench. You can make the trench as deep as you like but the more room you have the better the blast protection it offers. An important thing to remember: The deeper it is, the more soil you have over you. If the trench collapses for whatever reason (loose/soft soil, the powerful shockwave of an explosion, earthquake, etc.) you could be engulfed by an avalanche. This is also one of the reasons why you want to dig this trench as far as possible from any structure that could fall on it, the shelter should be located at least 50 feet away from any structure. The other reason is because nuclear explosions can cause far-reaching firestorms and damage structures (or anything flammable for that matter) well past ground zero. Digging the shelter near large structures may also endanger these structures, so yeah, be careful with that. You don’t want you to be sued cause the house of your neighbor came down do you?
    If the ground is too soft and you fear your shelter could collapse on you, don’t do it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
    Finally, it is a good idea to have a ladder inside the trench. The last thing you want is to be trapped in that hole, whether it is while you are digging it or after the nuclear attack, I guarantee you it’ll be a nightmare.
  4. Place the poles over the trench. When you are done digging place the poles straight across on top of the trench. Make sure the ends stick at least 2 ft past the edges of the trench. Once the poles are in place, cover any cracks between the poles with cloth or anything that will stop dirt from falling into the shelter. Two 6-foot poles, one placed onto top of the other and secured with rope, can be placed in front of the entrance to keep dirt from spilling in. It is very important you follow this step. You don’t want radioactive dirt on your head, do you?   What?  No, it won’t give you superpowers.
  5. You eventually are going to need to ‘release the brown beast. Build a toilet of some kind as far away as possible from the rest of the shelter with at least a blanket or a cloth for privacy and unwanted smells.  Now, speaking of smells, unless you like how that stuff smells you want to neutralize it before it becomes a nuisance. You need a bowl with charcoal (plain charcoal, not the lighter fluid-loaded kind.) or baking soda. DO NOT USE AROMATIZERS, in a closed space, It’s only matter of time before everyone starts hallucinating from the toxic crap those things contain.
  6. Ventilation. The last point brought to my attention an important issue. You need to breathe clean air. And by “clean air” I mean non-radioactive, poop smell is the least of your concerns in this case scenario. Visit THIS page to learn how to build a homemade ventilation system for your shelter.
  7. You are going to need furniture. Let’s face it, you are going to be there for awhile. You are going to need to sit or sleep somewhere. I know there’s no time (or money) to go buy a Louis XIV armchair but you can fashion rudimentary furniture from things that you have on hand. Make a chair out of an upside down bucket for example (I told you those things are incredibly useful!) or make a bed out of layered blankets. Try to make your living inside that hole as comfortable as possible.
  8. Make two different exits. Those ‘emergency exits’ at the mall are there for a reason. Make sure you have one too in case someone farts of fire.
  9. Seasonal clothing, food, water, first aid and survival kit. Unless you are like that guru who lives on pure air, yep, you are going to need all that.
    • Seasonal Clothing. Especially if it’s winter. It normally is a couple of degrees hotter underground, but don’t expect miracles if it’s freezing outside.
    • For Food I am going to have to pass on the advice. Stuff with vitamins and proteins I guess. You know, nutritive shit…  To be honest my idea of healthy food is cheetos, cigarettes, coffee and soda. You probably know more about it than I do.
    • First Aid Kit. Must have: band-aids, antisceptic (Povidone-iodine is the best I know for peacetime but I don’t know how good it is in the event of a nuclear attack), gauze pads of different sizes, scissors, adhesive tape, analgesics, etc. I will be posting later a Paranoid Survival post on how to make a complete first aid kit.
    • And last but not least, a survival kit. In case you don’t know how to make one, check the Survival Kit post to learn more about how to make yours.
  10. Finally, make sure people know where you are. After ‘it’ happens (whatever ‘it’ is) you will be underground and structures are going to be unrecognizable. By now you must have all you need to survive a couple of weeks. But if help comes sooner than that, the sooner you are out of that hole the better. Hang a little orange flag outside, use bright colors and fire-resistant materials. Rescue teams need to know there are live people inside your shelter.

And that concludes my lesson on how to build a fallout shelter. The information presented above was synthesized from two different articles:

How Fallout Shelters Work (courtesy of
How to Build a Fallout Shelter (courtesy of

Learn more about what ‘fallout’ is at wikipedia: Nuclear fallout

If you think I could have left anything important out, please feel free to let me know in the comments down below so I can add it. Good luck building your shelter and remember: Safety second first, always first.
Check the other Paranoid Survival posts to learn how to survive a nuclear attack and build a Faraday cage to protect your electronics from the EMP. Tune in next week to learn what to do in case of a biological attack!

Now, if you excuse me, I have to go to E.R. to reattach my pinky. No, I wasn’t building a fallout shelter, I already have one. I was making toast. And I royally suck at it. Don’t ask.  :-x

Magazine cover courtesy of

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