Prepping is all about being self-sufficient, so if you're starting off with an almost-zero knowledge base, you might be better off learning some survival techniques first. The best survival shelter is an elaborate DIY structure, but unless you or one of your compound group is a professional builder, you can spend years learning enough to build a safe and secure bunker. If that's the case, relying on a professional can be the smarter choice, but there are still a lot of decisions you'll have to make.
Although many of the 1960s plans for fallout shelters seemed to promote families living in a 10 x 10 room until the coast was clear, that's obviously not enough space to live and remain sane. Your shelter should have multiple rooms, for privacy as well as long-term storage reasons. Having the ability to shut yourself in a room and be alone can be a valuable asset when living in close quarters. Consider how long you may have to live in your shelter as well as the number of people who'll be staying there when planning the size of the building.
Photo by tompagenet via Flickr
If the situation is bad enough to warrant moving into a shelter, odds are good the air has been compromised in some way. Your shelter needs a sealed system along with a method of air filtration to keep contaminants out. The best is an NBC system with positive air pressure—one that filters out nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) contaminants. The system maintains air pressure in the shelter that's slightly higher than the pressure outside, which moves everything outward and keeps stray particles from coming in. Include silicone seals at all door openings and escape hatches. Apple Rubber makes custom-shaped seals to fit any opening, ensuring the clean air will stay inside.
Photo by Danielle Scott via Flickr
Supplies and Storage
Once the shelter is up, next you'll choose supplies and stock it. The first consideration is a simple math problem: How many people will you feed and for how long? Figuring out the amount of food servings, given an average 2,000 calories a day per person, will give you a rough estimate of the amount of food you'll need to stock. The problem with packing in all those supplies is that no matter how large you've built your shelter, you'll still be short on space. It's a self-correcting problem as the supplies dwindle, but ideally you should feel a little cramped in your space to make sure you have an over-abundance of food and water.
Once you know how much you need to stock, the problem will be to find compact foodstuffs that last. MREs (or meals, ready to eat) are a great option. One MRE will supply a person in a shelter with a day's worth of calories in a balanced diet. Dehydrated foods are another good choice, although you'll have to increase the gallon of water you stock for each person daily.
Photo by Win Henderson via Wikimedia Commons
James Kaufman is a married father of three and a high school teacher. He is a prepper and contributes regularly to prepping sites.