Does your home include an underground shelter for protection against the new extremes — both related to climate change and geopolitical threats?
These two forces have created a boom in business for the so-called “prepper” industry — meaning supplies to prepare you for “end of days” scenarios ranging from severe storms to civil unrest or worse — with the further extremes being things like nuclear fallout.
As soon as you even peek at anything in this product category online, you’ll be inundated with ads for prepackaged emergency preparedness kits — supplies of which appear to be keeping up with demand, unlike prebuilt infrastructure for emergencies, like turnkey fallout shelters.
Underground Shelter Options
Vendors of these shelters typically have different tiers of offerings that include options for extreme weather protection along with others that are more geared toward nuclear war.
The former might resemble a sub-basement type of structure whereas the latter might include a purified oxygen supply, backup power generators, storage space and incognito placement 10 meters below the ground.
Depending on the number of these features you choose and the size of the shelter, the prices range from $10,000 to $1 million, depending on the complexity of the model you want.
Sold Out or Backordered
Sellers of these shelters — like Atlas Survival Shelters, KI4U, Norad Shelters, Hardened Structures, Survive a Storm Shelters, and Utah Shelter Systems — state that they are backordered or sold out (as of this writing).
Of course, learning that these solutions aren’t available right away may increase the anxiety that may have motivated the search for an underground shelter in the first place.
Never fear: You might be able to dig an underground shelter for as little as $10 per square foot — or even free if you are resourceful, according to Survivopedia.
Can You Skip the Building Permit?
And if you’re intending to build it on your own property you might be able to get right to it without having to first apply for a permit with your local municipal government — assuming you’re planning something no larger than 200 square feet, which in most locations isn’t subject to building codes.
You should still check with your local government’s specific regulations on new construction before you — or your contractors — start digging.
Speaking of which, the lower you dig, the more types of protection your underground shelter can offer and the more room you might have to build. However, proceeding lower takes your project from something you might be able to do yourself to something you’ll need to hire a contractor to do.
Time and Money
That hiring doesn’t just require money — it requires patience. The average construction company has a nine-month backload of projects — and that’s in locations that are not currently recovering from natural disasters like wildfires or hurricanes. Assume the wait is two years or more in a FEMA recovery zone.
The most cost effective way to build an underground shelter involves a variation on sandbags: so-called earth bags, made from polypropylene and usually about 18″ by 30″ in size. You fill the earth bags with dirt, stack them like bricks and tamp them together solidly after you place down a full row.
Before You Dig
Before you dig anything, let alone start fussing with earth bags, you need to figure out what kind of soil conditions you face: you might have to build above ground and then cover the structure with earth afterward if the soil is soft and shifts around.
Building completely underground usually requires construction machinery and reinforcement with masonry in some form.
Only if you’re building above ground or partially underground should you try to build it yourself using earth bags — or any other building material, for that matter.
Join a Community
Although at first these two choices might sound like less work or less spending, don’t presume that’s the case. Both consider applicants’ ability to contribute to a community focused on survival, and if you are accepted, then the topic of money comes up.
The one drawback about either community option: You would have to get to the underground shelters awfully quick in an emergency and if you live far away from their locations, you might not get there in time.
Hedge Your Bets
Of course, the ultimate in risk management — and underground shelters are a form of risk management — might entail applying to the communities and also looking into building some form off underground shelter on your property.
You could further hedge your bets by building a simple structure on your property to tide you over while you wait for your turn for either a backordered shelter or a custom version built by a construction company.
All of these choices seem far more prudent than not taking any steps to prepare for emergencies. Skipping this appears to have increasingly catastrophic consequences, at least if the past year’s cost of disaster recovery is any indication.
Readers, what steps have you taken to prepare for emergencies?