Shipping Containers for Bunkers, Bomb Shelters, A Prepper Emergency Retreat

A reply to a question posed about bunkers and laws in building provided a lot of great information and I thought worth sharing. However as with all second hand information, now third hand for those reading this I always recommend doing your own homework and seeking professional advise.

Depending on where you are at – there can be restrictions..
As for the National Building Code – Burying a shipping container is fine…
OSHA is another beast: A shipping container is considered an enclosed space (In OSHA Terms: A space without adequate ventilation). By OSHA Standards, “Ventilation” is not a hole in the roof – Ventilation is when air can move freely into and out of the space (like into a window in one side and out the other side.) OSHA Requires that “Enclosed Spaces” be provided with forced air for 15-minutes prior to individuals being allowed in. Just like Telephone linemen working in underground man holes are required to force ventilate for 15-30 minutes prior to entry. The time frame depends upon the total cu foot capacity of the enclosed space (The forced air shall be the equivalent of 3X the volume of the enclosed space volume – so if you have 300 cu feet, you will have to ventilate with a blower forcing 10 Cu Feet Per Minute or so…).

Then in the United States there is a requirement to secure the perimeter of any underground “Enclosed Spaces”. This means a 9 foot fence, and locks. There must also be a sign identifying the owner with emergency contact info (Minimum ” IN CASE OF EMERGENCY CALL” < Telephone Number>”…

I have built many Bunkers (Including Bomb Shelters). The buried shipping container is a weak substitute at best… In any given stress event – It Would Simply Collapse. In the military we braced the insides, then blocked the entryway, and encased the whole container in a minimum of 36″ reinforced high strength concrete (I believe it was 160 PSI Concrete). The concrete outer shell was the actual bunker, the shipping container served as the form work. You don’t save much with a shipping container (they will cost you about $6K – U… A block wall would cost $3-4K). You still need the concrete and rebar. Electrical Service, sanitary sewer drains and the all important forced air intake vent system ( the exhaust can be passive – I like to use low inertia 2-30 CFM Fans for both intake and exhaust. You can get 12VDC ones and use one solar panel and a couple of “cheap” deep cycle batteries).

Which brings up another point. A battery would have to be in a “separate” utility service room, with at least two doors/rooms between it and an occupied space(even a ventilated living space). And the door to the battery room would have to be a vapor resistant one. The Purpose of the two rooms/two doors is to provide an air lock (vapor protection). Separate forced air ventilation is also required (however, you have to have the powered fan on the intake – no fan on exhaust). If the intake ventilation fan in a battery room is not to be on all the time (continuous) It MUST BE Explosion Proof! (Cheaper to get a cheapie 12VDC fan and leave it on….).
If anyone in Arizona needs help I will gladly lend a hand. I’m working on a “community Plan” as we speak. Can’t tell you where it going (at least not in a forum), that would be bad….
There is a lot more to bunker/Bmb Shelter building, than just digging a hole. A fallout shelter can be as simple as a hole in the ground with a tarp cover, and a filtered intake vent with a hand cranked blower. But a shelter is essentially a house underground. More along the lines of an Under Ground House, But with a Power Plant/Generator, Grow Beds (Gotta have food, right) and Emergency Supplies. All of this is way more than a shipping container in the ground.

Incidentally An NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) Shelter has an Entry way located at the exhaust end. The ones we put in Europe for the Military Bases were essentially “U” Shaped. We put the generator/Power Plant at one end (with a back up battery system to keep the filters running for at least 90-minutes in the event of a generator failure). This is where we put the air intake which blew air into the Filtration System (Which Included simple dust filters, then Chemical reagent impregnated filters, then Organic vapor filters, followed by activated charcoal filters. There were chemical/organic vapor detectors placed right after this first filter, ten we did it again and put a second filter system in line before feeding it into the shelter. The filter section was actually two rooms, then there was an air lock/Decon Station between the shelter and the last filter section. The purpose of the air lock was so that a person could be sent to check on the generator plant. (That person could exit out the air lock, but had to go around to the shelter Entrance to come back into the shelter. After the Filter Section the filtered (hopefully clean) air vent through the bunk room (where people slept,,, dah – sleeping area), then into the rest area and common area where there was emergency rations, the next stage was the dressing room (you’ll under stand why – just keep reading). The next station was the final decon station, which included showers, The next section was the second decon station which included hampers for all clothing (people entering the shelter disrobed and discarded all their clothing). The next section was the primary decon station where people were checked for chemical agents before being cleared to proceed. The next section was the preliminary decon station – this is where the anti chemical reagents were sprayed all over the incoming personnel, then they were assisted in removing their Gas Masks, and Outer Chemical Warfare Garb. The next section was an air lock – this is where the personnel did a self check and used dry chemical neutralizing agents to neutralize any liquid chemical agents on their suits, etc. (we called it the pig pen and hog wallow – stupid humor), The next section was the entryway and exhaust ports.
The idea came out of a French Design, and makes a lot of sense. Why French? Because France is the #1 exported and developing nation that develops and exports chemical weapons world wide (where do you Think Sadam Husein Got His – I know because I helped them build their bunkers and decon stations). The reason the air flow goes from the generator room to the entry room makes total sense. When people are entering or exiting the shelter – the air flow takes the chemicals away from the shelter. (which is why anyone going into the generator room could not re enter through the air lock and had to go around to the main entrance to get back.

Original post by dataman19. See original post and all replies on American Preppers Network go Here

8 thoughts on “Shipping Containers for Bunkers, Bomb Shelters, A Prepper Emergency Retreat”

  1. Its not exactly clear – or im reading it wrong, So if you were walking in and out of the shelter you would walk through the generator end, through the filter/arlocks THEN into the living area – and the air would travel the same path?? so that the exhaust is on the opposite end of the generator station and air scrubber??

  2. John, that is definitely not what he is saying. If you were to walk through the generator room back into the living area, you would contaminate your living area, you need to read it again, till you understand it. What he is saying is walk out of the living area into the air lock, then into the gen room. The gen room would be one of the last rooms. After you check the Gen set you would have to go outside and then come back around to the entrance to get back in, if not you might contaminate the living area and your supplies. So the Generator room needs to be by the exit, and you don’t come in the exit, you only go out of it. The entrance is where you come in. He really needs to look at what he wrote though, as it is not very organized, and not very clear. To me it looks like he just said to walk through the supply area, into the living quarters, then to the dressing room, and that makes no sense.

  3. First and foremost, OSHA is the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and has nothing to do with home unless…. you own a small business that operates on your property and you employ more than yourself. Second, the Enclosed space is for Electrical Contractors that work underground and again the rules do not apply to personally owned underground operations. I have a hard time understanding where OSHA would have any say in private property (personal bunker) unless you were hiring a contractor to install the bunker for you. If you are doing all the work by yourself, OSHA has no say in your construction. I am pretty sure you would only have to satisfy local building codes, assuming you wanted your local officials to know about your plans…. If you find that I am wrong in this, please respond with the proper OSHA chapter that identifies these “home” regulations.

    I’m not saying that a lot of your article is spot on, i.e. the separate rooms for the generator, air lock doors to ensure no fumes to living quarters, and the neccessity for the proper air filtration system, but I would argue that a shipping decent shipping container could be located on your property for around $5k and you could make significant improvements to the inside which would improve the structural integrity and allow for underground placement to ensure it would not collapse. These improvements wouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars and are fairly easy to make.

    I would agree that concrete is better and that the manufactured bunkers are superb to a connex (shipping container) however, on a poor mans budget, a shipping container should not be overlooked.

  4. I just buried a shipping container a couple months ago. I reinforced the insides with 4×4’s set up like H-braces to provide side support and then stuck the container in the ground, wrapped in 3 layers of plastic to keep it from rusting. And then I put another container on top of it so I wouldn’t have to worry about needing top support.

    PS this was a 45′ high cube (9.5 feet tall)

    It all worked out just fine but I didn’t do as many supports where the stairs came down and you can see a couple areas where the pressure from the dirt outside the container bulged a little of the sides in. I thought we had overbuilt the thing but now looking at it, we maybe even could have added more support on the sides.

    All said and done I believe that you can bury a container like we did for about 5-6 grand (plus digging the hole), where a 45x8x9.5 foot cement root cellar would have cost around 20 grand. Cement is freaking expensive. The footings we poured cost about a $1,200. I can’t imagine trying to do the whole thing in cement.

  5. The location of the house sounds awesome! Now if I could only fit my 125 lb bull mastiff into a smaller house without him destroying the place … (and my wife and daughter and our other dog and our cat and my home office… lol)

  6. Very good website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any user discussion forums
    that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get feed-back from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Kudos!

  7. You need to check out a new book called Emergency Air by F.J. Bohan.
    It shows you how to ventilate a home built bunker. Excellent book for only $10

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