Monday, January 7, 2013

The 5 Stages of Preparedness Part 3.1: Doomsday Bunker Dwellers

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Hard to believe that Stage 2, the Short Term, was written in November. It doesn't seem like it was THAT long ago.....I admit that I expected to have all 5 Stages covered by Jan 1, 2013. Oh well.

Congratulations. You have made it through the first 72 hours that encompass the first two Stages. The first stage is the Immediate. That crucial 24 hours where the actions you take have dramatic long-term consequences. You made it through the Short Term where you had to start thinking about shelter, food, and perhaps even permanent protection.

Just for reference, Stage 1 of Preparedness, the Immediate can be found here. Stage 2 of Preparedness, the Short Term can be found here.

72 hours in. What do you have? By now, it's time to establish a routine, settle in, and begin to think of the rest of your life.We defined the Intermediate stage way back when as:

Intermediate-What you will have prepared and planned to survive for up to 1 year.

Just like I had said in the last stage, the longer we look into the future, the more avenues can be taken. For example, we could discuss anything from using a self contained shelter as seen on the ever-so-popular shows, to being a true mountain man like Jeremiah Johnson, to being a scavenger that drivers around in a Ford Falcon and eats Dinky Di from a can. So, there are almost infinite possibilities for what could be done, all with merit. That being said, we will have to keep it generic, though I might go into MY plan....maybe....In the Intermediate Stage, supplies will still be readily available, though by the end of the year, major cities would be largely picked clean. So, in year 1, food and ammo won't be hard to find. We will be putting into place long term plans because that supply WILL run out eventually. Most people will be searching for some sort of established lifestyle encompassing shelter, security, and routine. Chances are, you have done all the running you are going to do (though, we admitted in older posts that you may be trying to get back to your family due to work trip, etc).  You have shifting priorities. Where physical protection and escape from the elements and/or whatever has taken the country over (be it plague, Red Army, zombie, or radiation) had been your primary concern, the Intermediate Stage is going to force you to start considering and living for the long term. Long term shelter. Long term supplies. Long term health. Now, let's not confuse the use of "Long Term" with the 4th Stage that we will (soon?) discuss. The use of "Long Term" as used here is, for example, going from existence by your zombie pack alone to the needs for a year. Just like saying that a simple brush lean-to would suffice for a few days, but wouldn't be the best shelter for a whole year.

Now, I brought up 3 different intermediate stage lifestyles, so lets use them since they are fairly broad and encompassing. In my mind, a variation of any of these are a sound way to live, if selected in the proper context. For example, in an extremely rural environment, you can operate almost freely, so being a scavenger full time just isn't needed. Or, you could be stuck in a city where scavenging is the only avenue of providing sustenance. So, I think we will discuss each of the 3 lifestyle choices, each in it's own post.

The Doomsday Bunker Dweller
The Jeremiah Johnson Mountain Man
The Mad Max Scavenger

Since it will take FOREVER to cover each of these, I will start out with the Doomsday Bunker Dweller as part 3.1. In it, we will discuss what it means, the different types of Dweller, the truths and misconceptions of it, and how to make it work. Now, much of this is going to come down to simple dollars and sense. Yes, I said that right. Doomsday Bunker Dweller is a little unique from the rest of the other lifestyles..and...really from the writing style of all our posts thus far. Why? Because we have talked very heavily about "what to do when..." or "how to..."

With a Doomsday Bunker Dweller, you have already done all the prepping you are going to do, right? You are going to close the door and wait it all out. So, it's a done deal. Right? Wrong. Like all things, it has it's place, but there are a lot of misconceptions and mistruths. But there are also some very real benefits.

The Doomsday Bunker Dweller
If you are reading this, then there is no DOUBT that you have considered building and stocking your own bunker. The rise in popularity of certain TV shows have only heightened the average persons awareness that it can be done. So, we will define the Bunker Dweller as someone who goes down the stairs of his or her bunker, shuts the door, and comes out either none at all or sparingly. I know that might now be the actually case, and that reality would be somewhere in between. Just the same way that there is a large spread from a homemade shelter made out of shipping crates buried on some one's back 40 to the lavish spreads we have seen on TV. While I admit that I am almost TOTALLY against the idea, I am also open minded, so I will go into the pros and cons of it. I am willing to bet that I have FAR more cons than I do pros for this. And since I write all of this via "stream of consciousness", we will have to count them at the end.

Obviously the biggest pro is the shelter aspect. Being able to hunker down and lock a door, point all the rifles at the door with a solid wall at your back is a good thing. I am all about having your own Alamo. The biggest problem I see in people is perceived shelter. Like, going into a closer in your home and pointing your shotty at the door makes you safe. It doesn't. You, me, anyone can punch through drywall barefisted. it's easy to kick in doors. You have to realize that your house is nothing more than 4 weak walls with a weak roof. If anyone wants to get it and they are motivated, there isn't any way to keep them out. SO, I am a firm believer in shelters, if only for a hidey-hole. But, I feel like most people out there have this idea of a doomsday bunk that they can jump into and survive the intermediate stage, wait that first year out for radiation, plague, or social unrest, unlock the door and the world is a better place. It simply isn't that way.

First off, let's consider the shelter itself.  The #1 BIGGEST con is the price. First off, the overall cost of a shelter, no matter how you slice it. Even if you are a cheap and frugal engineer that is willing to buy some one's shipping crates or used 18 wheeler trailers and get your granddads Bobcat to dig the hole, it still costs money. Heck, the LAND costs money. Now, I know there are many fortunate people in the country that can afford the land and can afford the 2,00 square foot bunkers with water treatment facilities and entertainment man caves. If it is, more power to you, but I am still going to poke holes in the logic later on. But it ain't me.  I admit that I AM lucky enough to have land to build a bunker on. Even then, the cost of the required building supplies is astronomical in today's market. Building your own bunker is feasible and even sounds fun, but it isn't something you cheap out on. Last thing you really want to do is build your own tomb. Feel me?

Now, depending on WHY you are building your shelter, it may be tailored around your fear of EOTW. For example, if you are concerned about radiation, you will have to have air and water treatment (though I don't buy any of this, really. Radiation is bad, ummkkaayy and I don't see how anyone can build a facility to deal with it), you would need some lead radiation. Ironically, there are companies that make lead lined sheet rock. This would greatly help with how deep you would need to bury your shelter. Taking if from 10+ feet deep to around 5.

If it's from a global meltdown/invasion or some such thing that you fear from other people, maybe security is your concern. As we have all seen from these shows, you can get blast proof doors and security systems.

For an everyday guy like me, the best I think I could do would be to build my own. I can't afford a massive shelter like we see on TV. I can't afford blast doors. I can't afford lead lined sheet rock. I can't afford water and air treatment and massive diesel generators that would allow me to watch "Waterworld" while the planet went to pot. And, I am not sure I would want to, even if I had the money. Why?

Well, more cons then....A big fancy shelter has to be built by someone. Which means someone knows where it is and what you will have in it. That's a pretty self-defeating proposition, because a dedicated person like me wouldn't quit bothering you because you had a nice big door. Nope. I would dig a hole down the side of your shelter and use a torch to cut me a nice hole in the side that I could easily fix later. Maybe you would get lucky and keep it a secret and no one would bother you, but I would always be worried about being some one's target. I have to admit, once again, that if I were roaming the country and found a trap door leading to some one's shelter, I would sure as heck pop the lid and see what was inside.

If you DID manage to keep it a secret, one of my biggest problems with a "shut the door" shelter is that it isn't so easy to stay shut from the world for a whole year. Sure, it sounds easy. Maybe it would be if you had TVs and movies and video games to play. But that power won't stay on for a year. And even if it did, you would get real tired of A) being by yourself B) tired of everyone in there with you. Being that I work at NASA, one of the major concerns of long-term space travel isn't the particular dangers associated with being in space, but rather the dangers of locking people in close quarters for a long period of time.

And, again, I have to point out the very real problems of relying on water and air treatment to sustain you. I guess that's the pessimist in me. But, you need power to do it...and while solar power is an option, it is also incredibly inefficient and untrustworthy. I can't even fathom how much fuel you would need to run a generator for that long, even in short spurts. I guess you could get real trick and run a your own power steam or water powered generators.....but, again, saying that you would go down to your local creek and build a water wheel hooked to a turbine and run all your electrical is one thing. Doing it is another. Would I do it and do I have the skills? Absolutely. But I also understand that I could very easily burn my shelter down ever other month, too.

Now, even IF you had the land and even IF you built a habitable shelter, a years worth of food and water? Could you imagine? No. Seriously. Have you done any sort of calculation on just how much that costs? I challenge you to go to a website like Emergency Essentials and price it out. Or...I will do it for you. The BASIC 1600 Calorie Kit. That's 1 person for 1 year. $1850 bucks. Wow. Ok, so I have a family of 5. I am willing to bet that I could buy 3 of these to cover all of us (7 year old, 4 year old, 1 year old). I am no mathematician, but that's a lot of money. Like, $5,000. Sorry. I love being prepared, but I simply can't swing that. And that doesn't cover water. Again, people of all walks of life read this blog and people of all walks of life prep. That may not be a lot of money to them, but it is to me.

There are some other ways to swing this, such as indoor greenhouses. But, saying that you will use a garden to sustain you for a whole year is one thing and doing it is quite another. I know this because raising a garden as a hobby is hard enough. I am on my 3rd year of gardening on my own, and in my 25th year of being around it and I still don't get it. Is it doable? Sure. Probable? I don't think so. Even if you were God's Green Thumb, the shear volume of space needed to feed 5 people would be....I don't know. Too much. And it would take you YEARS to master the shear logistics of it.  But, don't knock it till you try it...and I am going to be trying it (indoor gardening) this year.

In either case, water is also a concern. Again, the physical space needed for a years worth of food AND water is huge. Storing water isn't something to be taken lightly, either. Of course stagnation is a concern, but spills, contamination,  and mold are too. Your best bet would be to pipe in the water from an outside source. Of course, once again, water treatment is an issue, but not impossible (unless its radiated).

I think you can figure out where I stand when it comes to locking the door to a shelter for a whole year. It just isn't doable without a few tons of money and training. If you DO manage both of those, you are still a target. So, there you have it. Zach points and laughs at the idea. Now, I understand that these people MAY not be thinking about living a WHOLE year without opening the door and going outside. So...moving on.

Now, if it were a situation that you could go to the outside and supplement your food and water, then it's feasible. I think most Bunker Dwellers fall into this category.  Again, the cost of having the entire years worth of food and water stored, on top of the rest of your expenditures is astronomical. By no means am I discounting the potential pros that an underground shelter offers. It certainly has it's uses. Security, for one. Like we read early, a home isn't defensible. It's easily ambushed and even easier to penetrate. It's incredibly susceptible to bad weather and pyromaniacs. We all know what the Word says about lighting lamps and cities on the hillside? Same with houses. A lit up house can be seen for miles around.

 A bunker, on the other hand, has one way in and one way out. And while I hinted that a motivated person will always get in, it comes at a risk to the combatants safety as well as the potential to destroy any shelter and/or goods they hope to steal. A bunker also does much more than simply hide people. It's the perfect storage facility. It's easy to secure and easy to hide. That's an awfully big advantage if someone starts poking around. You can do a lot of things in a bunker. We talked about trying to grow food while living in a bunker and how that isn't really feasible. Well, it's a lot easier to grow food year-round if you can use a whole underground bunker to protect against weather and animals.

So, where does this leave us? Well, I hope you all can see the fallacy in trying to live the entire year in a bunker. It's extreme and cost prohibitive. Even if you satisfy all the "ifs" I have exposed, question yourself if you really want to live through the worst case. I know I don't. If I had to build a fully self sufficient, radiation proof shelter to survive a whole year, I am not sure I would want to live in the world the even would leave. I certainly couldn't afford it, by any stretch. And if I could, I wouldn't even need such a fancy one, because my wife would have left me LONG before finished it because A) the money I would spend B)her being convinced that I am even further off my rocker. I am already off it, as far as she is concerned, simply by posting...haha!

So, I've talked a good amount of trash about what I don't want, what I can't have, and the idiocracy of trying to build one if I did want it. Let's do what Von Braun said and "give solutions, not problems". What I DO want is somewhere that I could live for a month or two at a time in pretty nasty situations. Again, I don't really considering surviving a nuclear apocalypse to be feasible. you are either far enough away from it to go about your life, or you aren't. By nasty situations, I am thinking about sever enclimate weather, invasion, biological weapons or plagues, etc.
  • This would be in the realm of 750-1000 square feet.
  • It would be stocked with at least 1 month of provisions.
  • It would be built on a very rural plot of land next to a inconspicuous stream.
  • It would have a water filtration system, that being either a fancy chemical cleaner or simply a strainer/boiler set up. I am not that picky.
  • It would have a chemical toilet. It would have a generator, possibly in a segregated chamber.
  •  It would have a stand up shower and water catch/basin with a pump out.
  • It would have a Dutch oven.
  • It would have two entrances and exits.
  • It would be stocked with a good amount of entertainment (books/games/models/gym equipment). 

Now, I want you to analyse the things I have listed here. Do any of these items seem exotic? Expensive? Hard to find? Nope. While I have had several ideas on how to do this (go google some, you would be amazed at the creativity and affordability), one of my favorites is to bury a few steel shipping containers. Bring in a contractor to dig you a hole to your dimensions. That will cost you around $200 an hour. Shouldn't take longer than 2 hours. Maybe a half day if they want a minimum charge. Get a crane to lower them in, again, another $250 an hour. You can bury them by hand. You can get shipping containers for ~$1600 apiece. Get 3 of them, place them to form a T, weld them up. You now have 2 bedrooms and 1 common area. Go buy an old mobile home and part it out. You get the shower, toilet, a compact electric stove, and air conditioning system sized and packaged. Heck, you could bury the whole camper if you wanted...haha! A good generator will cost you around $1500. Decorate as needed. Stock as needed. Arrange for a hidden entrance. I would do something like, park a dilapidated old camper right on top of the entrance. Make sure you have a good method of locking the door (that you would have to fabricate).

 Folks, I just outlined a shelter for $10,000 that is more than adequate for your needs. With another $5,000, you could have a fairly lavish underground dwelling. Not only is it affordable, it's very secure, and it will be fun to build!

Of course, it's the "what now" that you must be concerned with. Even with the idea I just outlined, I only stocked it for a month, mostly because that's all I could afford. So, you will have to get out into the world to make ends meet. After all, a year is a long time, So you will have to get into those routines.

  • Wit down (in your awesome shelter) and plan out your goals, the better off you will be. Set those 30,000 foot goals, but don't worry about going into the nitty gritty details yet. It is easy to be overwhelmed when looking at the details of big tasks.
  • Next, establish a routine. One of the things our military teaches it's men is to establish routines. Why? Ward off boredom and provide a rise in morale. Even something as simple as:
    • wake up
    • Walk Perimeter
    • Shower and shave
    • Eat Breakfast
    • Plan Today's project
    • Work out
    • Shower
    • Read
    • Tend Garden
    • Walk Perimeter
    • Eat Lunch
    • Clean (guns? house?) 
    • Take inventory
    • Work on Today's project
    • Eat dinner
    • Read
    • Bed
Believe it or not, that's a whole days activity. Sure, you aren't getting a LOT done, but this would be a slow day. By sandwiching in repetitive tasks of many sorts with long term work, you can pass the time easily. Soon, you will look forward to many of these tasks, and those that you don't, you will feel obligated to do anyway. Ask anyone who, like me, struggles with their weight and goes to the gym for it. When I don't do it, I feel worse for not doing it. So I make myself do it. And then I feel good about it.

  • Be safe. The biggest threat to being a Bunker Dweller is having something that others will want. You are, and always will be, a target. So, whenever you are out, keep this in mind. Walking a perimeter is a necessary evil. So take different routes. If you aren't on your A-Game, don't go out.  If your mind is wandering, you might wander right past some guy or gal waiting to take you for all you have. Speaking of others, in this phase, involving yourself with others is a very big risk. I'm not saying to not do it, but take careful stock of what you are doing...and if you do approach others, always do it in your own terms. In this phase, people are either extremely desperate, or will be like you. I'm not sure which is worse. The person who doesn't know what to do, or the person who does. Actually,  the latter is probably worse as they might see you as a threat rather than an asset. Don't get me wrong, you WILL need other people to help you in your future...but we aren't there yet.

  • Make lists of things to do in regards to safety. It may be stupid to have a list for how to shut things down at night, but leaving the door unlocked, or a smoking chimney in the middle of the day, or any of a handful of innocent mistakes cost you your shelter or life aren't worth leaving to chance.

  • Give yourself a challenge, something worth doing, every day. By this, I am thinking about starting a garden, looking for livestock, or improving your water delivery. Something that you may not need now...but would be a great skill or thing to have for the next phase of life. Because, you will need a plethora of skills you won't need in this phase.

  • You will want to get out and scavenge for things you currently need and things you will need in the future. Don't take this lightly. Plan routes and times in depths. Think of areas that people will avoid. Take the out of the way route and stay off roads, even if you walk a few yards in the woods. Make lists of things you A)need B)will need C)want D)are valuable. After all, eventually, you will have to trade with people to get things you don't have. But remember, there isn't an item on earth worth your life.

Well..I will be honest. I am tired of writing, even though there is so much more to say. Mayne later.

I think I have done a good job on pointing out all the cons of the preconceived notions of a Doomsday Shelter. However, everyone should have one of a sort. Being from Tornado Alley, Alabama, a tornado shelter is a must. In fact, if you try hard enough, you can get state assistance to build one. But, let's say that instead of buying an off the shelf fiberglass shelter, you spend a little more money...or time...or both...and construct something a little larger with a little more amenities. Even in it's most basic form, you have a terrific place to call your prepper cache. If you put aside all of your preconceived notions of what a doomsday shelter IS and instead focus on what you need, what you can afford, and what you can do yourself, you may find that a shelter isn't too much to ask for...and is a SMALL price to pay for what it would afford in security.