I think as our first post, it almost seems customary to have an article about physical fallout shelters. Yes, they are a real thing, and available to regular people like you and me. As long as you own a home or a property with mineral or digging rights, and can afford the costs of designing, building and installing one, you can have a personalized bunker or shelter right where you live.
But before we get into a discussion on fallout shelters though, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page of what fallout, or nuclear fallout, is. Fallout refers to the remaining radioactive material that hovers in the sky after the initial blast and shockwave from a nuclear bomb detonates. This dusty material, once ordinary objects that were vaporized by the blast to become highly radioactive and dangerous, starts to literally ‘fall out’ of the sky, and contaminate everything it touches. If the initial blast of a nuclear bomb won’t kill you, this stuff definitely will. The purpose of a shelter is to minimize our exposure to the radioactive material until it has decayed to a safer level.
It’s important to note that I used minimize above and not eliminate. Some of these particles are almost impossible to stop completely with modern technology. So the best thing we can do for now is reduce the radiation as much as possible until safer levels return to the atmosphere.
There are three main types of radiation particles that float around after a blast occurs: alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha radiation will be the least of your worries, while gamma radiation will be the worst. Let’s take a quick look at each one.
Alpha particles are the equivalent of a helium-4 nucleus (2 neutrons, 2 protons) and travel extremely fast. Although they travel quickly (over 33 million MPH), they pack a small punch. They can only travel a few inches through air, and can easily be stopped by other objects, including your skin. Your real risk to contamination here is if you had direct exposure to the fallout particles.
Beta particles are a little stronger than alpha particles. They travel faster and penetrate further (about 10 feet in air), but all in all, still don’t pose too much of a threat to humans. The primary risk here again is if you touched the fallout particles, or if you happened to ingest them and they started to decay inside of you. Fun fact: they are actually used in extremely small quantities in science and medicine very commonly today.
Lastly, we have the ever-reaching gamma radiation. These bad boys are why we even have shelters in the first place. With the tiniest wavelength than any other wave in the electromagnetic spectrum, gamma particles pack the most energy. They pack so much energy that even the best shelters can still be penetrated by them. Luckily, though, the protection they provide can reduce exposure to less than one one-thousandth of unshielded exposure. So, are they worth it? Absolutely!
But how exactly do these shelters provide protection from radiation? Well, radiation contamination is all about penetration. If you can prevent penetration by absorbing them, you can prevent the decay from reaching you. These particles are most easily absorbed by objects with a lot of mass and a lot of density. Radiation shields are measured in terms of halving thickness- the amount of thickness a material needs to reduce the amount of radiation going through it by one-half. So far, lead has been the best shield for gamma rays that we know of, with a halving thickness of about 4 inches.
But you’ll notice that most bunkers and fallout shelters are made of steel or concrete instead of lead. This is most likely because lead is a soft metal and can be poisonous itself, while iron alloys can be extremely strong and not dangerous to work with. Steel has a halving thickness of 10 inches. Another important halving thickness to keep in mind is that of dirt, which requires about 3 feet. This is important because your bunker will be underground, covered in dirt. If your bunker is not far enough underground, it may be exposing itself to more radiation than is deemed acceptable.
What is acceptable?
According to most industry experts, ten halving-thicknesses is required to attenuate even the strongest levels of radiation. It’s also important to have at least one 90 degree angle from the entrance to the sheltered living quarters. Gamma rays are unidirectional and do not bend around corners well, like sound waves or light waves do. So another great protection in a bunker is to have a vertical entrance downward followed by a right angle turn to a horizontal passageway into the living quarters.
So how do I choose a bunker that will do the job?
Unfortunately, a fallout shelter is not something you can just get your money back for if it doesn’t work properly. This is a matter of life and death. When considering investing in a bunker for your home, here is a list of some must-haves when selecting the right one:
- rounded shape geometry
- 90 degree turn
- a combination of materials that produce at least 10 halving thickness
- able to withstand blast, earth movement, EMP, initial & fallout radiation (all types, especially gamma), fires, & biological and chemical gasses
- air filtration system (to keep out radiation, chemicals, and biological agents
After doing our own research, there are many companies to choose from. But the only one we’ve come across that has done live nuclear bomb testing on their products is Atlas Survival Shelters. They have made thousands of survival shelters over the years, and although we are fortunate enough to not have tested it ourselves, we are confident it will work properly when the time is right.
We hope that brings you to the end of our first article. If there’s anything you feel like should be added, please comment below or contact us here.