February 19, 2018

How to Build Shelter in the City

The following article was written by Dan Sullivan.

When everyone’s focused on one thing, I like to notice the things that are overlooked, the ones almost no one talks about. Urban shelters are one of them. With so much attention focused on building them out into the wild, it’s time we learned how to build one in urban areas.

Obviously, if everything goes according to plan, you’ll either bug in inside your apartment, flee to your bug out location or, at the very least, sleep in your car. But what if you’re stuck in the city and you literally have no place to lay your head. What do you do?

If the city is safe (and that’s a big “if”), you’re much better off trying to build shelter on concrete than if you were to bug out into the woods. In fact, building an urban shelter is easy as pie as you’re about to see.

By the way, if you’re looking for general urban survival tips, you can check out this article that I wrote a while back, I think you’ll like it.

Ok, so I said building an urban shelter is easy but why? For one, you don’t have to worry about strong and cold winds. You’ll have plenty of buildings whose walls will provide excellent protection from them. You just need to find one that will also protect you from thugs, angry mobs, protesters and so on.

The second reason urban shelters are easy to make is because you’ll have no problem finding insulation material. If you don’t have a problem digging through trash, you’ll find plenty of things to keep you warm. Cardboard is your best friend but be on the lookout for old clothes, rags, bubble wrap, carpets and even plastic.

Ideally, you need to find a cardboard box that’s big enough for you to crawl inside and then fill the openings with other insulating material. In fact, if you have enough of, add a second layer to be even better protected and be able to trap more of the heat generated by your body.

If you can’t find cardboard, you’re gonna have to be a little creative. Just look at some of the homeless people in your city and notice the kinds of shelters they have. For example, if you can find one, you can use one of those plastic carts on wheels that’s used to move gear around. You’ll have your very own mobile bug out location… 

Why do you need a sturdy shelter? Let’s not forget rain and snow can destroy it, particularly if it’s made of cardboard. Plus, even if it’s relatively warm outside, if you have low immunity, you might wake up the next morning with a cold or at least a sore throat and a running nose. You should add plastic or garbage bags over your cardboard shelter to make sure it resists to snow and rain.
Now, you can have the warmest shelter in the world but if you intend to sleep directly on the ground, you might as well get rid of it. You need to make sure you sleep on something that will protect you from the cold ground. Add at least 2-3 layers of insulating material, whether it’s cardboard, cloth, wood, or plastic.

What if you have to build the shelter inside your own home?

If you just survived a hurricane or a house fire and your roof is gone, you’ll have no choice but to build shelter right in your bedroom. The good news is, you have enough items to help with insulation. Just make sure you add enough layers underneath you because sleeping directly on the floor will cause you to lose heat and you could end up with a cold.

Last but not least, you’re gonna need a heat source. Obviously, building a fire too close to your shelter is dangerous so leave a distance of at least a couple of feet between the two.

Of course, the number one way to make sure the inside of your shelter stays warm is to insulate it properly and keep the entire thing as small as possible. As long as you can keep your body heat inside and limit the amount of cold air that comes in, you should be fine.

Ok, you survived the first night in your emergency shelter but now you need something a little more permanent. Now what? Since you’ll have plenty of time on your hands to look, the following are worthy options to consider as “more permanent shelters”:

• abandoned cars
• abandoned buildings (it’s possible that a lot of people left their homes already)
• train and subway stations

Since you’ll be spending an unknown number of nights in your new, semi-permanent shelter, you’ll have to consider other aspects such as security. You need to keep unwanted guests away by sealing all possible entry points and by having means of defending yourself. You should also have alternate escape routes just in case you’re cornered and the main way out is blocked.

Increasing Random Acts of Violence

Increasing Random Acts of Violence

If you have followed the news at all recently, I am sure you’ve seen reports of the “Knockout Game” as well as all of the reports of violence on Black Friday. You’ve probably heard of the reports over the last few years about violent flash mobs. These types of incidents seem to be happening much more over the last couple of years, and I expect they’ll continue to increase.

Knockout Game

This type of game isn’t new. I remember seeing reports of it over a year ago. It’s just a little more common now, and the news is reporting about them. The goal of the game is to knock someone out with one punch.

The assaults can be fatal. In New Jersey, Ralph Santiago, 46, a homeless man, was walking alone on September 10 when he was suddenly struck from behind. He had a preexisting brain condition that compounded the damage, leading to his death.

I have watched a few of the attacks that were caught on video and the victims are often sucker punched so they couldn’t defend themselves in any way.

I can’t remember another time in our history with this much widespread violence for no reason other than the entertainment of the perpetrator. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying there haven’t been other widespread acts of violence, such as racially based attacks, and hangings, but those were all acts of hate based on race. I’m not saying either is excusable. With the racial violence you could tell what the motive was, but with the knock out game there seems to be no motive but to inflict pain upon another human being.

Black Friday

Over the last few years, there have been a huge number of reports of violence at a variety of stores in many states, all in the name of saving a few bucks. There have been Stabbing’s, trampling’s, shootings, pepper sprayings, and various other types of assaults.

If you’re someone who thinks that when the stuff hits the fan you’re going to run to the store to get a few quick items, keep Black Friday human behavior in mind. People behave like this to save a little money. Imagine what they’ll do when they realize they don’t have enough food at home and you have the last item they want!

Flash Mobs

I’m talking about the type of flash mob that is made up of several young people who stream into a store, stealing as much as they can, as quickly as they can. These flash mobs sometimes lead to violence.

What Can We Do?s

These types of attacks are uncommon, but we should still do what we can to limit our vulnerability.

First and foremost, we need to be vigilant with our Situational Awareness. In some of these attacks, you’d need to look behind you after a group of young people passed by. Because of this, if a group of young people walk by, elevate your alert level of the Cooper Color Code and maintain that level until you are comfortable with their distance.

Even with a high level of awareness, you might still be ambushed by these cowards. Because the attack comes in the form of a punch, the attack is not “telegraphed” until the attacker is two arms lengths away. At these distances a firearm isn’t much good. In order to defend yourself against any close combat attacks, I highly recommend a real world martial art. I have mentioned that I have studied Haganah, which is based off of Krav Maga. Both are excellent. You might have another type in your area. Check into it!

We can utilize the buddy system. In the military, you’re told not to go alone when in port anywhere, to take a buddy or five. I haven’t studied all of the knockout attacks, but the few I have looked into stated that victims were all alone. If you have a friend along, it might lower your chance of being a target of any kind, let alone a knockout target.

Exercise your Second Amendment right to carry a concealed firearm, if you are legally able to do so. It might not protect you from being a victim of the knockout game, but it could and it could also be enough to deter an angry flash mob if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.


If you would like to repost this article, feel free to do so. Please mention that it was written by Chris Ray and provide a link back to this page.

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Learning as We Go

My wife Trudee wrote the following article.

Learning as we go

As some of you already know, Chris and I live in Minnesota. What some may not know is that it gets pretty warm here in the summer. At the time of this writing, it’s 94 degrees with 37% humidity. I’m very grateful for the low humidity level, as our central air stopped working properly on Thursday! Unfortunately, I don’t tolerate ANY heat very well.

Chris and I decided to purchase a portable air conditioning unit this past spring, to keep our room cooler while we sleep. Little did we know at the time that the AC unit would end up being one of our best preps yet! (Okay, that’s MY opinion! hehehe)

We’ve talked about what we would do to keep the house warm in the winter if our furnace wasn’t working for whatever reason. We never gave much thought to what we would do if our central air stopped. Thursday night, we found out!

It was just after supper and I had just finished cleaning up the kitchen. I hadn’t had the oven on and couldn’t believe how warm it was in the house. The thermostat read 81 degrees and the outside AC unit sounded like it was running normally. I checked a few of the air vents to see if there was normal air flow. The crankiness started upon realizing there wasn’t much air movement at all.

Ladies, I don’t know how many of you have experienced hot flashes but that’s where I’m at in life right now and I don’t like being hot on a NORMAL day. I’m sweating from being in the kitchen, discovering that the AC isn’t working properly and having a hot flash on top of it all. This is one of those times when I have to be so grateful for God’s beautiful grace because I have NONE.

We’ve had a service plan through our natural gas supplier for years and years. We’ve had to use it enough that it has been worth the $17.95 per month and then some! We consider that plan a prep. It covers our furnace, gas drier, water heater and stove. We added our AC unit to it a few years back, thankfully.

I tried to schedule a service appointment online but the soonest was 5 days out and the next day was supposed to be 92 degrees! They’re usually so much faster than that but I’m guessing budget cuts have dwindled their service technician staff. I tried calling, hoping they would have something different. No such luck! I set the appointment up for 5 days out and set about the task of trying to get the house cooled off.

Chris and I share a home office. It’s on the top level of our small 4-level-split entry home. That top level is ALWAYS the warmest. Hot air rises and all that! (You can’t see it but I snarled when I said that.) Our bedroom is at the end of the short hallway that our home office shares. I decided that since we spend the most time in those rooms, I would do what I could to cool only those rooms.

I knew I had a spare shower curtain tension rod and I had just seen some black landscaping plastic in the garage. Remember now, we’re both unemployed and practicing making do with what we have. We have duct tape! hehehe I set the tension rod up to fit between the walls of the hallway and duct taped the black landscaping fabric to the tension rod. It proved to be a good makeshift barrier to keep the cooler air in our bedroom and office.

The portable AC unit is set up to vent out our bedroom window. Leaving our bedroom door open with a fan blowing the cooler air into the office helped Chris be able to work on the blog and me to be able to study. Once we were done for the day, we closed our bedroom door to keep it nice and cool for bedtime.

I’ve had to spend today in the bedroom as well. I’m thankful we have the option and I’m thankful for being a prepper. I knew what we would do to keep a room warm and similar principles are used to keep cool!

Thank you, Chris, for taking such good care of me while I hid from the heat!!
Chris says: We made it through the last five days or so and the AC is now fixed. Living in Minnesota, I have given a lot of thought to what we would do if we lost heat for an extended period. I’ve thought about how to keep cool in a general sense but never came up with a plan. Trudee knocked this out of the park, hanging that black plastic up kept the two rooms cool enough for me to work in the office.

To me, the two biggest assets a prepper can have are: thinking ahead and making do with what you have. We can’t think of everything but we can figure out how to get by!
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Nuclear Preparedness: Shelter

fallout shelter

In two recent articles, “Current Threats to America with AlertsUSA” and “What Would You Do; North Korea Attacks” ,I mentioned the possibility of North Korea launching nukes at America.  I also mentioned that my response would involve heading to the basement.  A few people shared that they don’t have a basement and wondered what their options are.

I decided not only to give some possible options, but also to add some information about different types of nuclear attacks as well as sheltering to protect against radiation and fallout.  We’ve been led to believe that if there is a nuke attack, its game over but that’s just not the truth.  The truth is that for many who’re outside of the blast zone, with a little forethought and a quick response, many might come through the attack haggard but alive.

While I do believe that there is a small chance of North Korea (or anyone else) dropping nukes on the United States, it is still a possibility.  If I had a crazy neighbor who hated me, who had a shotgun and said he was going to use it to kill me, I would be foolish to just dismiss his threat.  That doesn’t mean we should live in fear.  We should just be aware of the threat and have a plan for how to respond when or if the small chance becomes a reality.

It’s not just us crazy Prepper’s that are concerned about this.  An article from December 2010 called “U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable”, explains that the government is actively taking a look at the subject and trying to educate the citizenry as well.  This article doesn’t cover things like radiation sickness, potassium iodide or decontamination.  You can find information on these and other related topics linked below.


Types of Attacks

There are three types of nuclear attacks.  They are: conventional, Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) and Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP).


Conventional Nuclear Explosion

A conventional nuclear explosion can be delivered by an intercontinental ballistic missile or in a small carried device such as the “suitcase nuke”.  The area of initial damage is called the blast zone.  This is where the greatest damage and loss of life will be.  There will be a shock wave that travels near the speed of sound.  This will be the second greatest damage and loss of life.  If you are in the blast zone or area of the shock wave, you would need to be in a blast rated shelter.  The size of these two areas will depend on the yield of the bomb.  Those outside of the blast zone and shockwave, depending on distance, may face nuclear fallout and radiation.


Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

I wrote an article called “EMP’s, Solar Flares and CME’s”, which explains what each one is and how they are different.   Congress established a commission to look at the threat of an EMP.  They released the following:  From The Critical National Infrastructures Report (page 9)

“The electromagnetic pulse generated by a high altitude nuclear explosion is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. The increasingly pervasive use of electronics of all forms represents the greatest source of vulnerability to attack by EMP. Electronics are used to control, communicate, compute, store, manage, and implement nearly every aspect of United States (U.S.) civilian systems. When a nuclear explosion occurs at high altitude, the EMP signal it produces will cover the wide geographic region within the line of sight of the detonation.”

The commonly held belief is that an EMP will set the United States and possibly parts of Canada and Mexico back to the stone ages.  The truth, however, is that we don’t fully know what will happen because nothing of this scale has ever been done.  I know that the EMP effect is real.  We use a version of it on our planes to shut down surface to air missile stations.  What is arguable is how much of the country will be affected.  One recent report I have seen says that those within 1,000-1,500 miles of the area over which the detonation took place will have all electronics disabled.  I have also read reports that say one EMP would affect half of the country.

The other debatable idea is what items will be affected by an EMP.  Many people argue that all devices with an electronic circuit board would be rendered inoperable.  This would be any vehicle after say the early 1980’s.  This would include any vehicle with a computer chip in it.  Matthew Stein, author of When Technology Fails and When Disaster Strikes, which I reviewed here, has said (paraphrasing) that most vehicles that were off should run.  They may run rough, but they should run.  I have also heard reports that diesels will run after an EMP.

One other comment I have is that we wouldn’t be back to the stone ages.  They didn’t know what electricity was.  We have the knowledge and would just need to repair and replace; granted this could take many years.

Here is a very recent article explaining why the threat of an EMP is real, called Chaos from the Sky: Why the EMP Threat Is Real. Thanks to JP for forwarding it to me.


Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD)

Better known as a dirty Bomb,  I covered this subject in a previous article called “Terrorism: Dirty Bomb”;  The following is taken from that article.

“A dirty bomb is not a conventional nuclear explosion. It uses conventional explosives (such as dynamite) to spread radioactive material. The damage and casualty rate would be much lower then a conventional nuclear attack. The goal with this type of attack is fear. Any death or injury caused by it is an added “bonus” to the terrorist. Remember how long things were shut down after 9-11 and how badly the economy suffered? If they can scare people and get them to pause long enough, it will do much more to hurt our way of life than any damage they may have caused.”


Different But With Some Similarities

The flash that accompanies a nuclear detonation is also very hot.  People five to seven miles away can receive first-degree to third-degree burns on exposed skin.


Thermal Radiation

If you’re seven miles away from a one megaton explosion, the heat emanating from the fireball will cause a first-degree burn (equivalent to a bad sunburn), to any exposed skin facing the light. If you’re six miles away, it will cause second-degree burns, and if you’re five miles away, the thermal radiation will cause third-degree burns — a much more serious injury that would require prompt medical attention.



Paraphrased from the National Terror Alert.com.

Fallout is caused by radioactive particles (Alpha radiation) that get sucked up during a nuclear explosion and come back to earth attached to dust and debris.   Fallout from a nuclear explosion may be carried by wind currents for hundreds of miles.  Radiation cannot be seen or smelled.  It can only be detected by radiation detection devices such as a Nuke Alert or a Geiger counter, among others.  Those in the fallout area will need to be in a fallout shelter with enough shielding to block the radiation; this is covered more below.

There are three factors that can lessen the impact of radiation and fallout; distance, time and shielding



As I mentioned above, there have been many misconceptions about the lethality of a nuclear explosion.  The information below shows the amount of damage at different distances.  This information comes from the National Terror Alert.com.


“1 Megaton Surface Blast: Pressure Damage
The fission bomb detonated over Hiroshima had an explosive blast equivalent to 12,500 tons of TNT. A 1 megaton hydrogen bomb, hypothetically detonated on the earth’s surface, has about 80 times the blast power of that 1945 explosion.


Radius of destructive circle: 1.7 miles
12 pounds per square inch

At the center lies a crater 200 feet deep and 1000 feet in diameter. The rim of this crater is 1,000 feet wide and is composed of highly radioactive soil and debris. Nothing recognizable remains within about 3,200 feet (0.6 miles) from the center, except, perhaps, the remains of some buildings’ foundations. At 1.7 miles, only some of the strongest buildings — those made of reinforced, poured concrete — are still standing. Ninety-eight percent of the population in this area are dead.


Radius: 2.7 miles
5 psi

Virtually everything is destroyed between the 12 and 5 psi rings. The walls of typical multi-story buildings, including apartment buildings, have been completely blown out. The bare, structural skeletons of more and more buildings rise above the debris as you approach the 5 psi ring. Single-family residences within this this area have been completely blown away — only their foundations remain. Fifty percent of the population between the 12 and 5 psi rings are dead. Forty percent are injured.


Radius: 4.7 miles
2 psi

Any single-family residences that have not been completely destroyed are heavily damaged. The windows of office buildings have been blown away, as have some of their walls. The contents of these buildings’ upper floors, including the people who were working there, are scattered on the street. A substantial amount of debris clutters the entire area. Five percent of the population between the 5 and 2 psi rings are dead. Forty-five percent are injured.


Radius: 7.4 miles
1 psi

Residences are moderately damaged. Commercial buildings have sustained minimal damage. Twenty-five percent of the population between the 2 and 1 psi rings have been injured, mainly by flying glass and debris. Many others have been injured from thermal radiation — the heat generated by the blast. The remaining seventy-five percent are unhurt.”


“1 Megaton Surface Blast: Fallout
One of the effects of nuclear weapons detonated on or near the earth’s surface is the resulting radioactive fallout. Immediately after the detonation, a great deal of earth and debris, made radioactive by the blast, is carried high into the atmosphere, forming a mushroom cloud. The material drifts downwind and gradually falls back to earth, contaminating thousands of square miles. This page describes the fallout pattern over a seven-day period.

Wind speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: due east
Time frame: 7 days

3,000 Rem*
Distance: 30 miles
Much more than a lethal dose of radiation. Death can occur within hours of exposure. About 10 years will need to pass before levels of radioactivity in this area drop low enough to be considered safe, by U.S. peacetime standards.

900 Rem
Distance: 90 miles
A lethal dose of radiation. Death occurs from two to fourteen days.

300 Rem
Distance: 160 miles
Causes extensive internal damage, including harm to nerve cells and the cells that line the digestive tract, and results in a loss of white blood cells. Temporary hair loss is another result.

90 Rem
Distance: 250 miles
Causes a temporary decrease in white blood cells, although there are no immediate harmful effects. Two to three years will need to pass before radioactivity levels in this area drop low enough to be considered safe, by U.S. peacetime standards.

*Rem: Stands for “roentgen equivalent man.” This is a measurement used to quantify the amount of radiation that will produce certain biological effects.”



The more time that passes, the more radiation will decay.  There are multiple formulas and charts that can be used to determine the level of radiation.  One is the 7-10 rule; for every multiple of 7, the radiation has decayed to 1/10th of its strength.  This means that 90% of gamma radiation is gone after the first 7 hours; 90% of that remaining 10% is gone after 7×7=49 or two days.  (–LINK Radiation Safety In Shelters–) is a good resource.



This image and following text come from the FM 3-05.70 Army Survival Manual:


Shielding examples FM 3-05.70

“Shielding Materials

23-31. The thickness required to weaken gamma radiation from fallout is far less than that needed to shield against initial gamma radiation. Fallout radiation has less energy than a nuclear detonation’s initial radiation. For fallout radiation, a relatively small amount of shielding material can provide adequate protection. Figure 23-1 shows the thickness of various materials needed to reduce residual gamma radiation transmission by 50 percent.”

“23-32. The principle of half-value layer thickness is useful in understanding the absorption of gamma radiation by various materials. According to this principle, if 5 centimeters (2 inches) of brick reduce the gamma radiation level by one-half, adding another 5 centimeters (2 inches) of brick (another half-value layer) will reduce the intensity by another half, namely, to one fourth the original amount. Fifteen centimeters (6 inches) will reduce gamma radiation fallout levels to one-eighth its original amount, 20 centimeters (8 inches) to one-sixteenth, and so on. Thus, a shelter protected by 1 meter (3 feet) of dirt would reduce a radiation intensity of 1,000 cGy per hour on the outside to about 0.5 cGy per hour inside the shelter.”


Expedient Shelters

Most of us can’t afford a ready-made fallout or blast shelter.  Even if we could, it’s not very practical.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love one and would turn it into Chris’ man cave. (That’s what HE thinks. <wink> -Trudee)  Since we don’t have a shelter to go to, knowing how to build an expedient shelter is a good skill to have and pray you never have to use.

A basement is ideal, but as was expressed last week, many American’s don’t have a basement.  Don’t fret!  I have a solution!  The reason a basement is ideal is that there is earth on four walls.  If you don’t have a basement, you need to add mass either inside or outside the walls.  The interior of the walls, to me, seems preferable.  This way you don’t have to worry about the elements or anything else destroying it.

In my example last week, I said I would take those 13 gallon bins and fill them with earth, placing them on the floor of the area above the basement, piled three feet high.

If I didn’t have a basement, one option would be to fill those same bins six or so feet high, by three feet thick, on interior walls.

If you lined the four interior walls of a room in your house, you now have a much smaller room than what you started with.  As you can see in my diagram below, you can place your bins on the outside walls of shared rooms, this will let you keep your shelter a comfortable size.

house design

If you have brick walls or a brick fireplace these would add additional shielding.  It doesn’t have to be just earth.  Here are some pictures from some old Civil Defense manuals.  Anything that adds mass can be used for shielding.  Just remember; the denser it is, the better shielding it will make.

Protect and Survive image 3

Protect and Survive image 2

Protect and Survive image 1


In the same army manual listed above it says in section 23-36:

It is not mandatory that you build a roof on your shelter.  Build one only if the materials are readily available with only a brief exposure to outside contamination. If building a roof would require extended exposure to penetrating radiation, it would be wiser to leave the shelter roofless. A roof’s sole function is to reduce radiation from the fallout source to your body. Unless you use a thick roof, a roof provides very little shielding.”

In many of the Civil Defense documents from the 1950’s and 1960’s, people are shown adding ceilings to their basement shelters with bricks.  If you’re building your expedient shelter in an interior room you will already have a roof to keep fallout off you.  If you have the ability to add more shielding, it can only help.

In the image I diagramed for placement of your earth filled bins, you’ll notice how the entrance overlaps.  This can also be seen in the image below.  Since radiation travels in a straight line and won’t draft in like smoke might, the overlapping shielding is enough to stop it from entering the room.


Shelter entrence


What If You’re Not at Home?

This gets much more complicated but is not impossible.  I used to work just minutes away from Minneapolis in one direction, and the Mall of America in another.  Both are considered terrorist targets.  I worked in a decent sized office building and game planned this scenario.  Not only are you faced with finding adequate shelter, but food, water and other supplies.


Building as shielding


In this image from the Department of Homeland Security, you can see by the higher numbers where the best shelter can be found in various buildings.

If you’re caught away from home and don’t see a building that would provide adequate shelter, another possible solution is to shelter under your car.


expedient Fallout Shelter car


I’m not crazy about this idea and would only use it if there were no other options.  In order to be able to do this, you would need adequate supplies to make the shelter as well as to live in it for a time.


What if Your Home Won’t Provide Enough Shelter?

If you live in an area where you wouldn’t be able to dig enough earth to fill bins to make a shelter, it might be a good idea to be on the lookout for places near your home that might offer adequate shelter.


How Long Should I Stay Sheltered?

Depending on how close you are to the blast zone, it may take several weeks for the radiation to decay to a point that it is safe to leave the shelter.  If the government is able, they will advertise that the levels are safe enough to leave the shelter.  A rule of thumb used is that after two weeks of sheltering you can leave the shelter for a limited time and continue to sleep in it.  You will need to take precautions to protect against coming into contact with fallout and you’ll need to decontaminate before going back into the shelter.  You can find information on that listed below.


Nuclear Power Plants

Someone made a comment last week about nuclear power plants being another danger.  From the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

“There are currently 65 commercially operating nuclear power plants with 104 nuclear reactors in 31 states around the country. Thirty-six of the plants have two or more reactors.”

This is absolutely true!  These plants require constant cooling of the reactors.  If something happened to shut the grid down, they have backup generators and enough diesel to run for two weeks.  If power has not been restored after that and the diesel hasn’t been resupplied, we would be faced with 65 chernobyls or Fukushimas.  If you live near a nuclear power plant, this is something to take into consideration.  Have a bug out plan!  In this scenario, sheltering in place is not a good idea.  The radiation is not going to decay anywhere close to the speed that it will from fallout.  The best thing to do would be to get a good distance away.



Here are some of the resources I have used over the years.  The first group is PDF’s of several documents on the subject.  Feel free to download them.  Even if you don’t have a basement, look at the PDF’s for basement shelters.  You can still get ideas from them.  The second group is websites I have visited.


Downloadable PDF’s

Radiation Safety In Shelters
Above Ground Home Shelter
Protection in the Nuclear Age
MP-15 the family fallout shelter
FM 3-05.70 Army Survival Manual
Plans for Expedient Fallout Shelters
Fallout Protection Homes with Basements
Nuclear War Survival Guide British Government
Fallout Protection What to Know and Do About Nuclear Attack


Links to other sites
Ready.gov; Nuclear Blast
Wikipedia: Fallout Shelter
Wikipedia: Nuclear fallout
Huge number of Civil Defense links
Wikipedia: Radiation protection WIKI
You Will Survive Doomsday By Bruce Beach
Nuclear Weapons Frequently Asked Questions
Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearny  (THIS IS A MUST READ PDF)


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The Many Uses of Shipping Containers

Over the years I have read many articles and forum posts about shipping containers; how people want to use them or have tried to use them, what has worked and what hasn’t. It’s a topic that interests me for a few reasons, some of which I’ll cover below.


General Information
Shipping containers come in two sizes; 8’x20’ and 8’ by 40’. You can buy them new or used. Many of the used containers have been on ships sailing the ocean and are exposed to salt water, which means they may have rust. The US has an abundance of these. In the CNN video below, the reporter says we received 7 million containers into America, carrying goods, but only 2.5 million left, exporting goods. This means there is a huge amount of these things available. Most are near shipping ports, but many make their way inland via trains. Some businesses have sprung up due to the popularity of them.
They can be used for everything from a shed, essentially placed on property and left alone, to offices or emergency shelters during a hurricane or other natural disaster. They have also been used to make multi-level homes and even fallout shelters.




Building With Containers
There are several companies that will sell you a prefab house, or even build one for you out of containers. I list some below and almost all of them want your e-mail or phone number before you can get a quote. The pluses to building with shipping containers is that they are fire and mold resistant. You can be very creative in your designs, as you can see in Amazing Homes and Offices Built from Shipping Containers, which has roughly 46 pictures of some very cool and unique housing designs. 9 Cutting-Edge Modular Homes has 9 more designs. Just do a Google image search for cargo container homes and you’ll be amazed.

Here are a couple of blogs where people are living in container homes, one in Australia and another in Panama.

I have seen several projects that other prepper’s have done with shipping containers. This video is of a group that built a large shelter with two 40’ containers on each side and a large open middle space. They added a roof, which they will use for rain catchment.


Here is another video where they are using a 20’ container as an underground shelter. I have some concerns about the weight of the concrete which I’ll cover later. A warning on the video: the music is horrible in my opinion. You’ve been warned. 


Building Codes

Since these types of structures are fairly new, many municipalities don’t really know what to do as far as building codes go, so I would look at your local zoning laws and talk to local officials. I have read that if you put in concrete footings and set the container on them, it may not be viewed as a permanent structure and can bypass some zoning restrictions and even taxes in some cases. Again, talk to your local officials! (Or completely pretend they don’t exist. It’s your call. Just sayin.)


Fallout Shelter
This is one of the most often mentioned projects that I have seen on prepper forums. It can be done, but there are some things to keep in mind. Jack Spirko from The Survival Podcast did an excellent interview with a man who has done this. The interview is called Episode-560- Shipping Container Construction – The Good, Bad & Ugly.

For those of you who don’t listen to podcasts, if this subject interests you, I recommend you make an exception. One of the things they cover is the problem of weight on top of the container. You see, these containers are built to be stacked, on one top of the other. All the weight bearing is on the corners and the sides, not on the top. If memory serves, it takes 12“ of concrete and 3‘ of earth to stop radiation. Putting that much weight on top of a cargo container without reinforcing the inside walls and ceiling could likely cause it to collapse. In the Podcast, they explain how this is done, so I’m not going to cover it here. Another option with the concrete is to extend the concrete 2’ wider on each side. This should help displace some of the weight to the earth.

Another problem is water. These containers are made of steel and unless you do something to protect the metal, it will rust through over time. The way “Mike” from the interview said to approach this was to use a roll of EDPM rubber coating, overlapping by 6”. EDPM is the stuff that big stores with flat roofs use to coat the roof to waterproof them. He said to use a roll, but it looks like there is also a liquid rubber version of it as well. I’m not sure which option would be better. This is an expensive route, but if you’re trusting your life to it, the expense is justified to me.

He also said to place rough gravel under the container as well. He mentions also adding 6” of gravel to the sides. This would help with drainage as well as his main reason for it, which is keeping any creatures from chewing through the EDPM and exposing the bare metal to the soil, as once a creature hits the rocky gravel they’ll stop chewing.

You also need to keep the water table in mind. You don’t want to spend the time digging this huge hole to find you’re a foot below the waterline.

There are other topics explored, such as drainage and using a sump pump, and air filtration, but I’ll leave those for the podcast.


Shipping Container as a Shed
I have a couple different ideas on this, depending on if you want it seen or not. If you have a BOL (Bug Out Location) that is just raw land, having a 20’ by 8’ container could hold a lot of emergency preps. Having it out in the open, with no one to keep an eye on it, could be asking for Joe Dirtbag to break in to see what’s inside. I think if you wanted to hide this, one could dig a hole, say 6 or so feet deep and 22’ wide. Put rough gravel or something similar on the bottom to help with drainage, placing multiple concrete forms to keep the container above the trap rock by six inches or so.
Some of the container may show above ground. Use the same methods as above, using EDPM to protect it from moisture, burying it with only a foot or so of dirt on top of the container. This would greatly reduce the weight on the container, though adding some supports is still a good idea. Now plant whatever local vegetation is around to camouflage it. You’ll need to leave access to the door, but those could be hidden with some bushes that wouldn’t look out of place.
If you want to use it on land that you live on, I would say to add a roof of some kind to protect it and add a rain catchment system to it as well.


Some final thoughts
If I ever get to buy the acreage I dream of, I would like to set up a couple of storage containers and bunk houses for guests. I’d like to possibly have one buried as a storm shelter/storage. I also like the idea of putting them on concrete forms. That way it would be easier to make them mobile if needed.
Cost isn’t mentioned on most sites. I’ll list the sites below. They want your information to give you a quote. For a bare bones shipping container, I would expect to pay a minimum $2500 for a 8’x20’, and up to $5000, depending on quality. You also need to consider delivery and installation, especially if you’re burying it.


Shipping Container Resources
I have a bunch of resources. Some are companies that sell fully designed units and some sell just the containers. Others sell design plans. There are a few other resources listed as well. I looked through all of them, more to get an idea of what was possible. I’m pretty impressed with what some of these people have done.

Here is an article on Bob Vila’s site called Home Sweet Container, Steel shipping container homes are strong, safe, and eco-friendly.

Here are some sites that sell fully developed containers. Again, you’ll need to give them your info to get a quote but they’re good for ideas if nothing else.

Container Home Consultants is a blog on the subject. It looks like they may sell some plans and an eBook, but there are many free articles.

Here are a few companies that sell prebuild systems:

Global Portable Buildings, Inc.
Sea Box
American Container Homes, Inc.

Here are two sites that just sell empty shipping containers:

The Big Blue Box

Here are two sites that just sell plans:

Shipping Container Homes
Container Home.info
Container Homes.net has a variety of services. It looks like they sell some plans and some boxes, as well as blog about their journey.

I realize that this article has just scratched the surface but hopefully you walk away seeing more possibilities for shelter or storage.


The Five Basic Human Needs

There is a lot of talk about “preparing for economic downfall” or “getting ready for an EMP or solar flare” or “societal meltdown”. The problem with preparing for specific events is that the events you’re preparing for might never happen, or if it does, it could happen differently than you expect.

It doesn’t matter what part of the world you live in, how old you are or even how much money you make, there are five basic things that every human needs to live, let alone survive. If you prepare for meeting these five basic needs, you will have a higher level of overall preparedness and ability to face a variety of situations.

Whether you’re preparing for your entire family or just making a new BOB (Bug Out Bag) or car kit, you should work toward meeting these five basic needs first. Once they’re met, if you want to add in specialty preparations for a specific type of event, more power to you.


I covered The Storage, Filtration And Purification Of Water pretty thoroughly in that article. Here I will just say that people need one gallon a day to drink, more if you want to bathe. Water is so much more important than food. The Rule of Three’s says we can last three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Having some stored is great, but I highly recommend you find a way to purify water that works for you. Boiling will kill any bacteria but will not remove chemicals such as arsenic or chlorine. For that you need a water purifier. I own and reviewed a Big Berkey. The Storage, Filtration And Purification Of Water lists many other ways to purify and filter water.


There are many ways to approach food, from using Copy Canning to build your pantry with the “eat what you store, store what you eat” foods that your family eats most often, to storing staple foods with a 25+ year shelf life or planning long term with gardening and Permaculture and many things in between.

Water might be the most important, but food is the insurance policy that ensures your self-reliance and independence. In a survival situation the more food you have stored, or available in your land, the less of a drain you are on the system and the longer you can go without taking a handout.

I have covered food storage in depth in the articles linked below:

Food Storage Part One: Why Store Food And The Rules For It.
Food Storage Part Two: The Kind Of Foods That You Can Store
Food Storage Part Three: Shelf Life of Staples.
Food Storage Part Four: The Process and Enemies of Food Storage.
Food Storage Part Five: How much food should you store and where should you put it all?
Food Storage Part Six: Tips On Stocking Up and Affording it all.
Food Storage Part Seven: Food Boredom to Survival Cooking .


The importance of shelter depends on your situation. Of course, if you’re lost in the wilderness and it’s raining, it takes on more importance. For most of us however, our shelter is our home. There are things you can do now to protect your home, such as general fire safety, or to harden your home with a safe room.

When you’re in your car, it is effectively your shelter. Having a car kit and AAA are ways to make sure your car can be an effective shelter should the need arise.


This is an area that doesn’t get as much attention as the others, I think mostly because we are so used to always having power, that we take it for granted. You can ensure you can meet your energy needs with a portable generators. A low end unit can cost just a couple hundred bucks. I covered off grid fuels. You can find backup ways to heat and cook for relatively cheap.

If you have no power, it is still possible to keep food cold without electricity. Make note of it now and have a plan just in case.

Energy and shelter often go hand in hand. If your car does become your shelter, or you do get lost in the woods, do you know how to make fire? Do you have a car kit? Do you have a mini kit? I’ll cover fire starting in another article, but knowing how to make fire can be a lifesaving skill; to make heat and a signal for others to see.


I want to start by pointing to an article I wrote on whether or not Christians should practice self-defense for those of you have reservations on the subject. My personal stance is that I pray for my enemy now, but if he attempts to do me or mine harm, I will be a danger to my enemy and will use as much force as is necessary to stop the threat.

The first part of self-defense is situational awareness, Proverbs 27:12 tells us:

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

Because the danger cannot always be avoided, using the Cooper Color Code we can be ready for a possible threat ahead of time. I suggest everyone one of us decides now what we’re willing to do to protect ourselves and those we love, because you will not have time to make a plan in the midst of violence.

Find a means of protection you are comfortable with and get training in it. If that means carrying pepper spray or training in real world self-defense, fine.

If that means using a current handgun, or getting a new handgun and getting your conceal and carry permit, or just being armed at home, then get training and go for it.

 My Take

No matter where you are or what situation you are in, these needs do not change. Preparing ahead of time and building redundancy for these five needs will help to mitigate many situations.


Home Defense: Defensible Positions and Safe Rooms

Home Defense Defensible Positions and Safe Rooms

Home is the place where we lower our alert level and let our guard down. Being at home doesn’t mean you’re completely safe, just safer then when you’re out. Home invasions are on the rise and if the economy continues to struggle or gets worse, they will rise even faster. It’s impossible to give you a simple list of things you can do to make your home secure. I am going to cover some home defense principles over the course of a few different articles.

In this article I’ll cover safe rooms and defensible positions; some simple things you can either incorporate or just be aware of.
Defensible Position

A defensible position is simply a place in your home that is more easily defended then others. Many homes have choke-points that could be used to force Mr. Dirtbag and friends to slow down and group.

The most defensible position in my house in the main bedroom because it’s at the end of a 20 foot hallway. If Mr. Dirtbag wants to do us harm, he has to come up one flight of stairs, make a hard right and cross that 20 feet, all while dodging rounds.

When planning your position, consider lines of fire; if you shoot through your doorway, where is that round going to travel? Will it enter another room or possibly go through your external wall and into your neighbor’s house? If you live in an apartment or town home, this is something you’ll want to think through completely. (I’ll get into home defense guns soon and that will address this more.)

There may be situations in which the most defensible position is not an option. If the most defensible position is the main bedroom but your children’s rooms are on another level, for instance, you might choose one of their rooms to turn into a safe room.
Safe room

This is not the type of safe room that is an impenetrable steel room with its own electric and oxygen and water supply. I mean a room in your house that can offer you more protection because of the layout and/or some things you have done to harden it.
Hardening Your Safe Room

Here are a few things you can do to make it harder for your safe room to be breached:

  • Solid core door; doors with multiple panels have areas on them that will be easier to kick or punch through, but even that is better than a hollow core door.
  • Use three inch screws to secure the hinges to the stud; most hinges are only secured to the frame. This alone will make it harder to kick in.
  • Use a reinforced strike plate and use 3 inch screws to attach it as well.
  • Use three hinges if possible.
  • Use a dead bolt lock, most internal door locks are flimsy and are easily bypassed.

If you have read the article I wrote called Duct Tape and Plastic?,it might make sense to use the same room you seal off in a chemical event as your safe room.
Items to Keep in Your Safe Room

Phone lines are easy to bypass, either by cutting the line outside or taking the phone off the hook once inside. Because of this, you should have a cell phone inside your safe room, it does not have to have a contract, but have it plugged in to make sure it will turn on. FCC Tips for 911 Calling.

“If your wireless phone is not “initialized” (meaning you do not have a contract for service with a wireless service provider), and your emergency call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator does not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.”

A flashlight. Here are some flashlight non-standard flashlight uses.

Nonperishable food and water bottles might be a good idea.

Joe Dirtbag hates noise. To make some, keep an extra key fob for your vehicle in your safe room and set off the alarm. You could also keep an air horn for the same purpose.

I recommend keeping your home defense gun and extra ammo in this room as well. If your safe room is your child room, a quick release safe is an excellent way to make it, well, safe.

If you have any other ideas or suggestions please add them in the comment section.

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Duct Tape and Plastic?

I think many of us remember post 9-11 when word was put out about duct tape and plastic. We were to use this to seal our homes air tight in case of a biological or chemical event. I was among the many people who scoffed at this idea. That is until recently. I was doing some research on an article about sheltering in place and found the Frequently Asked Questions at Ready.Gov. I read a bit and made the comment to my wife that, “this is one of the occasions when we would bug out.” She said something along the lines of “What if someone can’t? What if their only option is to stay put?”

She hit the nail on the head. While sheltering in place during a chemical event is not my first option (or I am sure yours), what if the need arouse and it was the only option? This will be a quick article and will add another tool to the tool belt that I pray we never need to use.

Feel free to look at the Ready.Gov Frequently Asked Questions as I’ll just be hitting the high points. One possible reason that you would need to shelter in place is due to either an accidental or purposefully released chemical with the plume nearby or heading toward your area. For incidents such as this the DHS recommends having plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal off a room to further limit the airflow from outside and give added protection.
What should you use?

DHS doesn’t have any brand preference, but recommends duct tape that is 10mil thick and plastic sheeting at is 4-6mil thick.
Which Room?

DHS recommends the bathroom as it often only has one door and no windows and gives access to, well the bathroom. Might not be a solid plan for an entire family, so pick a room that has the least amount of access to the outside from doors, windows, fans and vents.
What Should You Do With It?

First turn off the heat or air conditioning. This will further limit the amount of outside air that gets in. DHS recommends having pre-cut sheets of plastic that measure 6” bigger than the area you’re trying to cover. As you can see in this picture, completely cover all doors, windows, fans and vents.

How long can a family stay in a sealed room? Will we run out of air to breathe?

DHS recommends that individuals allow ten square feet of floor space per person in order to provide sufficient air to prevent carbon dioxide build up for up to 5 hours assuming a normal breathing rate while resting.

Many chemical releases would be diluted within a few hours, so the direction to shelter-in-place would likely be made for a short time period while a chemical cloud dissipates.
Final thoughts:

I still don’t think this plan is a great one and I’ll only use it as a last resort, but now I know what to do and have the room picked out should we be forced to use this option.

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Fire Safety, Before and After the Fan

Fire Safety, Before and After the Fan

Fire safety is something I think everyone should be practicing now when times are normal and you’re not in a survival situation, so that you can prevent or minimize the danger of a fire. In a survival situation, the danger of a fire starting and the damage it can cause are magnified. The reason for this is that people who do not normally use candles, their fireplace or other alternate heat sources, use a skill set they have minimal experience with. Depending on the situation you may or may not have electricity and if you are connected to city sewer and water, there is a very good chance you will not have running water.

Here is some information to help you develop a fire safety plan now as well as some things to keep in mind should you find yourself in a survival situation.
Have a Plan

Ideally every room should have two exits, a door and at least one window. In multiple story homes have a plan to safely get to the ground. Make sure everyone knows to check the door for heat with the back of their hand and to not open it if it is hot.

School age children have to do fire drills often multiple times a year at school. Doing them in the home is a great idea as well. Explain the primary exit and the backup ones. Make sure they understand how to unlock the window and get it open as well as getting the screens out of the way.

Have a designated meeting place that is near the home; a neighbor, mailbox, anywhere that is a safe distance from the fire. Make sure everyone knows where it is.
Sound the Alarm

The code might be different where you live, but in Minnesota it is code to have a smoke detector in every bedroom. If this isn’t code where you live, it is a good idea.

Here is a report that says that ”Only 58% of kids even woke up to the sound of a fire alarm.“. There are fire alarms that record your voice. This is a great idea, as you can say the child’s name and remind them of what they are to do.

It is a good practice to test the alarms every month and to replace the batteries every six months. You can use the old batteries for other non-life saving things, like the remote. Daylight savings is a great time to replace the batteries. There are some smoke detectors that come with carbon monoxide detectors built in, you should have at least one of these in my opinion.
Fire Extinguishers

Fire Extinguisher : 101 is a site that explains all things fire extinguishers, including types of fire extinguishers, how to use them and care and maintenance of them. I personally have one in each bedroom, one in the kitchen and one in the basement near the furnace, washer and dryer and one in each car.

Fire extinguishers are not meant for fighting a fully engulfed fire. They are a great tool for fighting small fires, shortly after they have started.

Here is a video to give you some idea of how fast a fire can spread.

Here is a video that covers the important information about fire extinguishers.

Important Documents

Be they family photos, wills, insurance papers or anything else of importance, it is a very good idea to have these kept in a fire resistant, waterproof container. Another good idea is to have a record of all serial numbers, model numbers and other pertinent information. Here is a Serial Number Recording Form that I created in PDF format. You can write down the important information for your valuables. I also recommend taking pictures of your valuables. You can store them on a flash drive that you use solely for important information. It should be kept in the fire resistant waterproof container.
Post Smelly Fan Blades (aka. “after it hits the fan”)

In a survival situation, the danger of a non-controlled fire is much higher. The reason for this is that often the electricity will be out and there will be no heat or light. This means that people will use alternative heat and light sources that they might not use often, such as candles, outdoor fires etc. The other reason the danger is higher is that if there is no electricity, there is no water pressure to help fight the fire.

In a short term situation, just practicing extra vigilance should be all that is needed. Make sure that if there are candles going, they are being used in a room that you are in and are not left unattended.

For an outdoor fire, keep burning restrictions in mind; if it’s too dry and windy, it might be best not to burn. If there are no restrictions and the weather is permitting, having an extinguisher nearby is a good idea. If you have a well or the water is running, a close by hose might be a good idea as well. Remember, as Smokey the Bear says “If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave”.

If the situation is long term and there is no power, prudence might dictate that the scope of the vigilance be increased. Work with your community to limit burning to a few community areas or have a fire watch posted that can alert the entire community if smoke is seen.

At the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, fire “destroyed six and severely damaged about 25 booths on the grounds” I bring this up because there are no fire hydrants on the festival grounds and if there is no electricity, this means the pumps are not pushing water to the fire hydrants nearby your home, so they are uselss. In the article, it says that at one time there were twelve fire trucks being used to put the fire out. If it has hit the fan, the best your neighborhood might be able to do is get a bucket brigade going and that’s only helpful if you live near a body of water or have a large amount of water available such as a swimming pool or multiple rain barrels.

As in everything we prepare for, in a long term situation, it might be wise to do what you can to mitigate the danger beforehand. I read a fictional story once, the name of which escapes me. In the book, the characters knew they were at high risk for a fire. They took some pretty drastic measures to save their homes. They cut down any trees within 50 or so yards, dug up grass near the homes which left the earth exposed. I don’t think that I thought much about it at the time, but if there was imminent threat of a fire, who knows what might sound like a good idea.

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