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Survival Bunkers and Shipping Containers

21.02.2013 - Posted by Updated On 21.02.2013    

There's a swell growing based on the ideas of survivalists and preppers, and the main concern is how to best protect their family in the event of a natural disaster, financial collapse, large scale emergency, or any other doomsday scenario.  Preppers are preparing for any of these events by training in self defense, stock piling food, and building "bug out shelters".

First, for the uninformed, let's explain what a bug out shelter is.  When any of the previously mentioned events take place, preppers have set plans in place to "bug out" to a safe location.  Where the location is situated isn't typically shared, as it's stocked with resources vital for a few days, or months, of survival, and the prepper doesn't want their stock pile to be looted.  The bug out shelter is simply the house where they, and possibly their family and friends, can relocate to while they assess the situation and how things will play out.  National Geographic has a great article on picking a best bug out location.

There are a lot of opinions as to what structure makes the best bug out shelter; and really it's defined by the ultimate needs of the individual and the amount of time and money they have to invest.  The most commonly discussed options are campers and RVs, concrete block buildings, and shipping container shelters.  All options have their pros and cons, but for this article we're going to focus on shipping container shelters and share a few of the ideas that our clients have used.

Site Preperation

Once you choose the optimal location you'll need to prepare the spot before your container is delivered.  Standard shipping containers, or in this case they may be called an ISBU (Intermodal steel building units), are 8' by 20' or 40'. Ideally, you can leave as many trees and coverage in place to better conceal your shelter and provide insulation in hot and cold temperatures.  If you're going to put a foundation down, there are three main options:

Depending on your location topography and how remote the area is one option may be better than the others.  If you're planning on burying a shipping container, the first reaction is "don't do it".  Shipping containers aren't designed to support weight and constant pressure on their sides, so over time the side walls could begin to cave in.  If you are going to burying your shipping container, it's important to reinforce the sides.  While some of our clients have poured an exterior shell around the container reinforced with rebar and rocks, the best option that a client has used is gabion basketsGabion baskets are those boxes that resemble crab pots filled with stone that you see along the highway.  They're inexpensive, and once filled with large rocks they make great support and provide some drainage on the outside of the container.  The client filled the Gabion baskets and built them up around the two longest walls of his unit, then backfilled over them.

If you're planning on having additional man doors or windows installed you may want to check with the depot to see if they're able to cut the holes for you, or in some cases they're able to install the entire window or door as well.  Having this work done prior to dropping the container on site could save time and the hassle of moving a torch and welding equipment to your location.

Container Delivery

Once the location is set, you'll need to get the container into place.  If you're sinking the container you'll need a crane ready to lower it into the spot.  Or if you're partially sinking it in a hill a truck with a tilt bed trailer may be able to back in and drop the container on site. To help with planning your delivery, here's a previous article that we published: Shipping Container Delivery

Fitting out the Inside

The interior can be fitted out to meet the individual needs of your unit.  How many people will be bunking there, if any?  Will it be used primarily to store supplies and munitions?  A combination bunk house/pantry/armoury?

Many people go with a combination set up, and it's not that hard to frame out if you have some basic understanding of carpentry.
Pantries, food lockers, and storage areas can be either fenced off and locked, or if the items inside need to be kept out of site three walls and a door can be constructed to keep your items separated from the general living space.

When designing a sleeping area, think compact and efficient – like the sleeper car of a train.  For bedding, bunk beds that fold up work best; and can be used for shelf storage when not in use.

Bathrooms/lavatories are typically Spartan in nature.  If the area is available outside camp showers work well, however in some areas the climate doesn't permit this.  The most basic bathrooms resemble port-a-johns and either have chemical toilets with vents, or a small integrated septic system similar to an outhouse.

The remaining space is typically recreational/dining/kitchen space.  Every situation and location is unique, so we're not going into highly specific details as they could be limitless depending on the number of people involved, and your budget.

Safety in a time of crisis is important, and keeping your family protected and fed is paramount.  If you're planning your bug out for when the SHTF converting a shipping container makes a great choice for storing your belongings and sheltering your family.  If you have any questions about the options available you can check the great resources listed below, or contact the staff.

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