Blast and Fallout Shelters   Ready-To-Bury 


This is a pre-built, ready-to-bury Mini Blast & Fallout Shelter designed by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Fabricated by a partner company utilizing galvanized corrugated steel (14 gauge rated for under road use type) of 4' diameter and 12' long with 3' high double entry/exit risers with double welded (inside & outside) 10 gauge steel plate bulkheads and 1/4" steel blast doors. This is a pre-built, pickup truck delivered shelter that is easily installed in (beneath) a backyard with less than two hours of backhoe work. $3,200.00 FOB Central Texas. Call (910) 458-0690 for more information. Immediate availability. 



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The blast and fallout shelter offered above is based upon a proven design by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM), a leader in civil defense research and education since the mid-eighties. OISM has constructed five full-scale civil defense shelter displays under contract for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (shown HERE) , as well as the states of Pennsylvania, Utah, Arizona, and Idaho. OISM is also a FEMA educational partner. 



Family Size Miniature Blast and Fallout Shelter


This design fills the void for a smaller and cheaper family blast and fallout protection shelter. It is rated at 50 psi and provides well in excess of 1000 PF when buried with three feet of earth cover. This shelter offers its occupants a good chance of survival of air burst explosions of most currently deployed nuclear weapons from a horizontal distance of one to two miles, and excellent fallout protection.




It's small and cramped with only a 4' diameter by 12' long, but for many locations it'll be endurable enough for those most dangerous high levels of fallout radiation in the first 24 hours. Built by a local fabricator you could have it made for under $1,500 and well less than half that if you could do the welding and fabrication work yourself. 


End Caps

The ends of the cylinder are closed by flat plates of the same steel. Six inches from each end, cylinders 24 inches in diameter and 3 feet long are attached at ninety degree angles to the shelter room to form two entryways and ventilation ducts. All seams are welded completely, and the assembled structure is sprayed with an asphalt coating. An attachment bracket is provided on one outer end for a protective anode for further corrosion protection.


Shelter Doors

The shelter doors consist of two circular 1/4-inch steel plates 25 1/2 inches in diameter. Each plate has a rolled rim made from a 1/4 inch thick steel strip 2 inches wide and 80 inches long. This rim must be welded to the plate inside and out. These caps, when properly installed and used, provide simple blast doors and valves suitable for blast overpressures up to 50 psi.


Two small steel loops are welded to the inner surface of each door 6 inches in from the rim to serve as hinge supports. Four similar loops are welded at 90 degree positions and two inches down inside each of the 25 l/2-inch entryways. These are positioned at 45 degree angles to the longitudinal axis of the shelter room. The four loops permit water bottles to be raised into the entryways for additional radiation protection.



The shelter is buried with three feet of earth over the top of the shelter room and the 25 1/2 inch entryways extending two inches above the ground surface to avoid rain run-off into the shelter. Then a 6-inch by 6-inch concrete collar is poured in a trough in the earth around the entryway such that the rim of the door rests on the concrete and the door is about 1/2 inch above the entryway rim when closed. This collar transfers blast load from the door to the soil and helps prevent crushing of the entryway pipe. The shelter should be located as far as is convenient away from burnable structures and on the side toward any expected nuclear targets so that the buildings will fall away from the shelter .


Finally, a protective ring of concrete or logs (such as railroad ties) is positioned around and above the closed door such that the door IS recessed by about 6 inches. A berm of earth is placed around this ring. The "blast protector logs" described in Nuclear War Survival Skills are suitable for this, or the family may wish to make this structure with concrete. If concrete is used, a suitable drainage hole must be provided to prevent accumulation of rainwater in the ring with consequent leakage into the shelter.


Close to each end of the bottom of the shelter room, a 1 inch threaded hole is provided with threaded plugs which may be removed from inside. During burial, a few Inches of gravel is placed in a recess under and around these holes. They permit drainage if water should leak into or be spilled in the shelter. A narrow floorboard may be placed loosely on the shelter bottom in order to keep the occupants dry if moisture is draining down the bottom.



Theoretically, this shelter has a fallout protection factor of about 10,000, an initial nuclear radiation protection factor of about 1,000, and a blast protection capability of about 50 psi. These are sufficient for most American locations even in a large-scale nuclear war. In use, given the uncertainties inherent in these severe conditions, it might degrade to a fallout protection factor of 1000 and blast protection of 25 psi which is still quite good. This shelter offers its occupants a good chance of survival of airburst explosions of most currently deployed nuclear weapons from a horizontal distance of one to two miles, and it offers good protection from radioactive fallout.


Internal Supplies

In use, the shelter must be equipped with 15 one-gallon containers filled with water for shelter occupants. A few of these should have handles, because, after the shelter is occupied, they are to be drawn up into the entryways with cords placed through the four steel loops. The entryways are thereby partially filled with water for additional radiation protection.


Expedient ventilation equipment as described in Nuclear War Survival Skills must be provided. This can be a small Keamy air pump mounted in the rectangular opening of a cylindrical wooden frame built into the room, or simple expedient fans. The doors are propped open about 6 inches during shelter occupancy to allow expedient ventilation.


If the direction of an anticipated blast threat is known, then the doors are opened away from this threat. They may be propped open with small sticks. These sticks would be crushed and the doors slammed shut by a blast wave. The door is attached to the entryways by at least one chain connected to its inner loops to serve as a hinge. If the blast wave approaches from the open side, it might tear the door off. The blast protector ridge shields the door assembly from flying objects.


An alternate procedure is to prop the doors open with long sticks that extend to the bottom of the shelter. A shelter occupant is assigned to each stick. When the reflected light from outside indicates that a nuclear explosion has taken place, the occupant moves the stick and allows the door to fall shut. The door is then reopened when the blast wave has passed. The negative pressure wave may already have opened it, but this wave is not life- threatening. With rings welded to the bottom of the shelter under the doors, one might even arrange to bind the doors down with a load binder and chain before the blast wave arrives.


The shelter equipment must include heavy plastic sheeting and the other supplies and tools required to build tents over the doors as is described for expedient shelters in Nuclear War Survival Skills. These reduce the amount of fallout which may drift into the entryways. Spare supplies should be stocked to replace the tents if they are carried away by blast winds or other causes.


Plastic bags for waste disposal (you throw them out the doors after use ), a homemade Kearny fallout meter, several flashlights with spare batteries (you will be able to see during the daytime by reflected outside light), and a copy of Nuclear War Survival Skills complete the shelter equipment. Store the radiation meter in a sealed bottle with drying agent as described in Nuclear War Survival Skills.


If this design does not appeal to your desire for a "high-tech" life-saving device, remember that a few days inside this pipe with your family and only water to drink (no food is recommended) is going to be very low-tech indeed. However, even if the quality of life is very low for a few days, you will probably survive the very horrible fate that awaits the unprotected victims of nuclear explosions.


There are many impediments to the installation of a proper family civil defense shelter - cost, motivation, distractions, fear, etc. We all have many things to do in life besides preparing fancy holes underground. Nevertheless, should the worst actually happen, you do not want to have the experience of realizing that your inaction has just condemned your family to a horrible and unnecessary death.






Q: Who Needs Nuclear Protection Sheltering Strategies?


A: The reasons for learning about and formulating a nuclear response strategy are as varied as are peoples concerns for the future and the safety of their families in this ever changing world. The following all-inclusive list would require different responses (sheltering or evacuation) depending on the particular nature and location of the threat and your ability and preparations to respond to it.


The specific causes of potential life-threatening nuclear radiation emergencies include...

  • Nuclear power plant accidents here or abroad (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl)

  • Nuclear materials processing plant accidents (Tokaimura, Japan)

  • Nuclear waste (radioactive waste from hospitals, spent fuel and radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, radioactive contaminated materials, etc.) storage or processing facilities mishaps

  • Nuclear waste transport truck or train accidents

  • Accidents involving non-waste, but normal daily nuclear materials transport (trucks, planes, trains, couriers) One out every 50 HazMat shipments contain radioactive materials. Approximately three million packages of radioactive material are shipped in the United States each year.

  • Improper storage of radioactive materials (non-waste) at any point during their normal material life cycle. (Power plants, Medical, Industrial, Academic, etc.)

  • Lost or stolen radioactive sources (Over the last 50 years, incidents of lost and stolen licensed radioactive devices occur at the rate of once every other day. See this article for additional information.

  • Nuclear terrorism here via...


    • *** An attack on, or sabotage of, a nuclear power plant. 

    • Or, a real terrorist atomic bomb detonated here 

    • Or, much more likely, conventional explosives used to disperse radioactive materials to effectively contaminate an area and much within in it. 

  • Limited nuclear war overseas with the fallout carried here by the wind (See Trans-Pacific Fallout for threat here if any of the 'players' went nuclear in the Mid-East, or Pakistan, India, Korea, China, Russia, etc.)

  • Nuclear War involving a direct attack upon the USA. 

While only a few of the potential nuclear threats above would entail blast damage, all would involve possible radiation exposure and a few with actual radioactive fallout that the wind had then carried far from the original scene of the incident.


Many variables will determine the nature of the nuclear threat and the level of protection needed at varying distances from ground zero.


For instance, for atomic bombs, whether it was a ground burst or air burst will determine whether there is significant fallout or not. Also, the explosive yield of the bomb, which is typically measured in kilotons (KT) or megatons (MT) of an equivalent quantity of TNT, will determine its blast circumference damage area. (A one-megaton bomb is 1000 times more powerful than a one-kiloton bomb.) Another effect is the thermal pulse or heat flash that can burn exposed people and ignite combustible materials. These direct effects, the blast wave and thermal pulse, are examined first below here. Then, following that, the radiation effects, both the initial radiation and fallout radiation are detailed.


Bottom Line: Exploring and developing your nuclear response strategies in this day and age is cheap family insurance and, like major medical insurance, we can also hope & pray never to have to use it! Also, like any real insurance, it'll be near impossible to quickly figure it all out and implement it after the fact! Knowledge is King here while a false embrace of nuclear myths could be downright deadly.




Q: What are the Nuclear Blast and Thermal Pulse Effects?


Half of all the energy released by nuclear explosions is in the form of blast and shock and about 35% is in the form of heat. The following four drawings show what level of blast damage (at different psi overpressure) and fire ignition from the thermal pulse might be expected for different strength nuclear explosions (both ground and air bursts) at different distances from ground zero. Take note of the damage range distances from GZ - ground zero. (Courtesy of Nuclear Attack Environment Handbook, FEMA - August, 1990)

nuclear explosion






Obviously, the bigger the weapon yield the larger the area of overpressure damage from the blast wave. But, notice that the damage range does not increase in a linear fashion with the more powerful explosions. For instance, comparing the 200 KT air burst with the five times more powerful 1 MT air burst, the range of moderate damage and initial fires increased from only 4.3 miles to 7.3 miles. This is because the reach of blast and fire effects varies as the cube root of the weapon yield ratio and the cube root of 5 is 1.71. So, instead of a five-fold increase or 500% we have only about a 70% increase in this comparison.

A readily portable terrorist nuclear bomb would likely be only a fraction as powerful as the examples above, but for reference, the Hiroshima nuclear bomb was only a 15KT air burst. (The RA-115 backpack nukes reported missing from Russian stockpiles are one kiloton yield each, and they would most likely be surface exploded.)


As noted above, blast effects drop off quickly with distance. At Hiroshima a brick building survived only 640 feet from ground zero. And less than a mile away a trolley car remained intact and on its tracks.


For concerns of a future attack by a foreign nuclear power, the current thinking is that with the continuing trend towards more accurate MIRV'ed (multiple, independently targetable, re-entry vehicles) nuclear weapons, they are now mostly smaller than in the past, averaging on the order of 500 KT or less and for submarines only 200 KT. Of course, there are now more warheads per missile (4-10) and they are substantially more accurate than during the height of the cold war. Also, any targeted military installations can expect to receive multiple hits.


Again, we are exploring here only the initial direct effects of a nuclear explosion, and specifically, the shock wave and blast effect. (Thermal Pulse effects will be covered below.)


All buildings will suffer light damage from the shock wave at even 1 psi peak overpressure--shattered windows, doors damaged or blown off hinges and interior partitions cracked. The maximum wind velocity would be only about 35 miles per hour. As the overpressure increases, so does the blast wind--exceeding hurricane velocities above about 2 psi.


So, how much blast or overpressure is too much to survive?


It, of course, depends on where you are when it comes charging through, but from a 500 KT blast, 2.2 miles away, it'll be arriving about 8 seconds after the detonation flash. (An even larger 1 MT blast, but 5 miles away, would give you about 20 seconds.) Like surviving an imminent tornado, utilizing those essential seconds after the initial flash to 'duck & cover' could be the difference between life & death for many. Both the overpressure in the blast shock wave and the blast wind are important causes of casualties and damage.



For the man-in-the-open example above, that's 2.2 miles from the detonation of a 500 KT air burst where the shock wave would arrive about 8 seconds after the detonation flash, this sharp body slap would produce a 10-psi overpressure over his body that might perforate his eardrums. Additionally, though, he would experience a blast of wind of about 295 mph for about three seconds that would launch him careening into a probably fatal impact and he would also likely suffer injuries from flying missile fragments of glass and debris. See the following chart from A. Longinow People Survivability in a Direct Effects Environment and Related Topics:


Again, though, as in a tornado, prompt protective actions can make a great difference in ones survivability. For example, it requires about eight times the blast wind force to move a person who is lying down compared to a standing person. Diving into a ditch, depression, basement or anywhere else normally thought of for tornado protection will improve your odds greatly. You are also much less a target for glass shards and debris missiles. This simple change in vulnerability, but of this magnitude, can save many lives.


Regarding the Thermal Pulse that accompanies the thousand suns brighter flash, that represents 35% of the energy expended in a nuclear explosion, burns caused by this heat energy of the fireball can produce the most far reaching consequence of the immediate weapons effects. For our example above of the man-in-the-open, 2.2 miles from a 500 KT air detonation, fatal blast injuries would have served in most cases to put him out of his misery. The thermal pulse, travelling at the speed of light, would have already delivered lethal burns and his clothing would have burst into fire if truly exposed in the open. In fact, about 50% of those fully exposed to the fireball anywhere in the 2 psi or greater range would eventually die from the severity of their burns.


However, if there is fog or haze or any kind of opaque material or structure between people and the location of the fireball the effects of the thermal pulse can be greatly reduced. With medium haze it can be cut by 50% and with heavy fog down to even just 10%. So, smog in the big cities could actually be partly protective for once. Also, while it arrives at the speed of light and delivers most of it's energy within the first second, the larger the bomb the longer it'll take to deliver its full compliment of thermal energy, perhaps even several seconds. Quickly diving behind anything creating a shadow could be lifesaving.


In most places however, besides fog, smog, haze or clouds, there are buildings, trees, hills and other objects that would also block and reduce some portion of the thermal pulse. In fact, the more densely built up an area is then the less likely the inhabitants would be exposed to suffer the full impact of the thermal pulse. Of course, though, they may still have to deal with the resultant fires created by the thermal pulse and from any blast damage.


Bottom Line: The majority of Americans, even in a full-scale all-out nuclear war, would survive the initial blast and thermal effects of nuclear explosions. Even with a large 1 MT explosion and being as few as 8-10 miles away from ground zero, you would likely find that you had survived the initial thermal, blast and shock wave. With any kind of prompt protective action your odds of surviving at even half that distance are quite high. Also, increasing your odds, is that our military installations would be the primary targets and a multitude of thousands of purely civilian concentrations (cities & towns) would be of much less importance strategically to have wasted a nuke on in a first strike. (With the exception of our nations capital and militarily important targets in or adjacent to cities.) 


(910) 458-0690