Survival shelters can help to protect your family from dangerous weather and many other potential threats. Storm shelters are often underground and are covered with earth. Not only would this protect you from a tornado, it could also shield your family from radiation in the aftermath of a nuclear event. When considering the need for a shelter, careful consideration should be given to the threats most likely to occur in your location. Shelters aren’t cheap, so make sure to address common safety and design issues before you start building.

Before you design your emergency survival shelter, you need to decide what disasters or events you are most concerned about. For instance, don’t build an underground bunker if you are worried about floods! The terrain can also be an important factor in planning your emergency shelter since a high water table, or rocky soil may limit building underground. The number of people and the maximum amount of time you may need to spend in the shelter are important factors when determining the size of your shelter. A 4’ by 8’ shelter may be adequate if you only need to wait out a tornado warning, but if you need to spend two weeks inside while waiting for radiation levels to fall, you will want much more room.

Safety concerns and common problems should be considered before beginning disaster shelter construction. When possible, plan for multiple exists with both vertical and horizontal egress. A tree may fall over one hatch, so a second or third exit may save your life even if it does add to the cost and complexity of your shelter design. If your shelter is underground, moisture is a constant threat. Adequate water proofing and draining during the planning and construction of your shelter will save you money and headaches down the road. Adequate ventilation needs to be installed for any sealed shelter for safety and air quality.

Once your dream shelter is built, make sure you stock it with the necessary food and provisions. Even if you only expect to be in the shelter for an hour or two, a couple bottles of water and some long lasting packaged snacks will make the wait more bearable. Who knows what awaits when you emerge from your shelter; at the very least you should store some coats or blankets and a radio, flashlight, and some batteries in case the power is off. This is only the most basic provisioning, but it will come in handy no matter what the survival situation is.

There is nothing wrong with adapting an existing shelter even if it isn’t ideal. But if you are spending time and money building a new shelter, make sure you plan adequately and get the most for your money. Remember to identify: the threats you are most concerned with, the number of people to be sheltered, and the maximum duration spent inside the shelter. Once the shelter is built, provision it with the food and supplies that you are likely to need during and after the disaster event.