The most common definition of a fallout shelter is an enclosed space designed to protect humans from radioactive debris, fallout in other words, resulting from a nuclear blast. Public fallout shelters were common during the cold war. However, private shelters could be found in the backyard of homes throughout the country during this period as well. Maybe it is time you considered one.
The massive fireball created from a nuclear explosion vaporizes matter. Once vaporized the matter is then exposed to neutrons, absorbs those neutrons and thus creates deadly radioactive material. Rainfall will carry the material to earth, or it can form into a dust that resembles ash and fall to earth. Wind and humidity along with other factors will have an effect on how widespread the distribution of the material becomes.
The material once it coats a surface can be washed or swept into trenches and covered with soil to help protect an area. Wearing proper protection while cleaning up is critical to your safety.
The fallout material emits alpha and beta particles, as well as gamma rays. These materials of course pose a significant hazard to all life forms. You need protection from the fallout, and a so-called fallout shelter can minimize or completely reduce exposure. You would have to stay confined until the materials have decayed to safe levels.
You need shielding material that reduces gamma rays, so what materials will shield humans from gamma rays. Keep in mind the more shielding in place means a greater reduction. For example, 0.4 inches of lead, 2.4 inches of concrete and 3.6 inches of earth, each independent of each other will reduce gamma rays by 50 percent. The mathematics state that you need shielding that reduces gamma ray exposure by a factor of 1,000, so you need 10 times the thickness of any quantity of material that acts as a shield.
A filed expedient shelter is one where there is at least 3 feet of earth overhead and the roofing material itself would increase the thickness of the overall shielding. A simple trench that has a roof structure than can withstand the weight of three feet of earth would be relatively easy to construct compared to other structures.
Any material to include, clothing, snow, ice, steel and water would offer some form of protection, and you have to remember any protection is better than no protection. You need to have distance from the blast, limited exposure and proper shielding to survive.
Any building would offer some form of protection and the further from ground zero the greater protection a building would offer. Your basement could become a fallout shelter and would be an ideal one if it were below ground level. Earth or even snow could be piled up along the outer walls to enhance the protection. If the basement has a dirt floor, you can also pile soil on the inside along the walls for enhancement and use the depression created by the excavation for greater protection as well.
The doorway (s) leading to the basement can be covered in heavy plastic, or wood to provide more shielding. The concern of course is the ability to stay in the basement/shelter for an extended period. This means you would need all the necessary supplies to include a means for human waste disposal for an extended period.
Other options would include building a fallout shelter on your property or commission to have one built. Considerations would include air supply, water source, energy source, waste disposal and sufficient space.
Russia is talking nuclear options, North Korea has nuclear capabilities and they are unstable, and Iran is doing everything they can to obtain a nuclear weapon as well. If you doubt that terrorist’s organizations are not doing everything they can to obtain a nuclear weapon then you have not been paying attention.
It has been reported that terrorist have also used chemical weapons, so they do have access and certainly have the willingness to use them. A fallout shelter could protect you from certain chemical and biological attacks as well. Ebola appears to be uncontrollable in West Africa and if not contained soon it is simply a matter of time before it becomes an even bigger problem in the United States.
Fallout shelters could also be used for protection from certain natural disasters, so there is every reason to consider building one given all that is going on in the world today.
The biggest problem you would face is having enough supplies stockpiled. Two weeks would be the minimum amount of time you could expect to be in the shelter, but prepare as if you would be in there for six months.
Depending on how close to the blast and under certain conditions you may be able to come above ground for short periods at the end of the first week for an hour or possibly longer. However, to do so you would need the means to measure radiation to determine the risk. Having the means to monitor for public information would be essential.
Keep in mind a nuclear blast would create an EMP and depending on how close you are to the blast, you may find that your electronics are rendered useless. You may want to consider employing shielding techniques for radios and other communication devices and store them shielded in the shelter.