The Weakness Of Underground Bunkers

Featured | Underground | The Weakness Of Underground Bunkers

Look into how underground bunkers must be built structure-wise to get it ready for a doomsday scenario!

RELATED: What Do You Need For Your Underground Survival Shelter?

In this article:

  1. Building Plans for Underground Bunkers
    1. Weak Entrance
    2. No Air Circulation
    3. Waste Management

Underground Bunkers | Important Things to Consider

Building Plans for Underground Bunkers

We often think of underground bunkers as being the ultimate survival backup plan. Whether it’s a natural disaster, civil unrest, or the zombie apocalypse, these survival shelters can prove to be pretty useful when it’s time to batten down the hatches.

However, if they are not built properly, these bunkers can quickly throw a wrench into your survival plans. Along with stocking your bunker with everything it needs, you need to ensure the structural soundness of your shelter.


Whether you’re planning to build your own underground shelter or have it done by professionals, you need to know what makes good and effective underground bunkers.

Read on to take a look at three of the most common weaknesses in underground bunkers and large storm shelters.

Weak Entrance

Entrances are typically the weakest part of a structure. Debris from a major disaster could force the door inwards, in which case you are no longer protected from the elements and are exposed to broken remnants flying inside.

You also need to be able to conceal yourself from unwanted visitors.

Your best option is to have a solid-core door, such as a mix of steel and plywood, which you can find here. A steel frame is also an integral part of your entrance.

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People can have the world’s best concrete storm shelters, but a weak frame will make it useless.

You may also install a 90-degree barrier outside the door to inhibit intruders from knocking the down the door. Construct a concrete or cinder block barrier with just enough room to open the door and climb inside the shelter.

Check out if your door is FEMA approved.

RELATED: 5 Reasons You Need A Storm Shelter In Your Home

No Air Circulation

Underground tunnel | The Weakness Of Underground Bunkers
Air circulation is critical, especially in metal underground storm shelters. I once heard of a group of folks that hid in an underground school bus.

Although this is an innovative idea, the bunker did not have adequate air circulation and the group of people baked to death.

While the ground around the walls offers protection from natural disasters and most explosions, it can also be an oven, trapping heat. You not only need proper air circulation to cycle in oxygen and maintain body temperature but also to cycle out contaminants or contagions.

A simple remedy can occur with two holes and a fan, although HEPA filters can remove airborne bacteria and viruses. You can also use UV light to disinfect the air before circulation.

Read more about air circulation at The Omega Man.

Waste Management

Bunker stairs | The Weakness Of Underground Bunkers
The amount of time you plan on retreating into your bunker will vary depending on the situation, but you can never count on an exact estimate of time. That being said, sewage and garbage must be dealt with, to avoid harboring contagions and diseases within underground bunkers and storm cellars.

Depending on the terrain, a septic tank or sewage system can do the trick. You may also incinerate garbage inside the shelter, as long as there is proper air circulation.

Check out this storm shelter from Lifesaver Storm Shelters of North Alabama:

Building an underground bunker is not as easy as digging a hole for people to hide. A survival situation can last for days, which means you need to make sure people won’t suffocate or live with their own waste.

Careful planning is a must before the building process takes place. Now you know what effective underground bunkers should have, you’re good to go with your plans.

Did you look into the same issues when building your bunker? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 19, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

26 Responses to :
The Weakness Of Underground Bunkers

  1. Great Grey says:

    Yes venting is very important, the less it depends fans the better. I’m not saying not to use fans just make sure your ventilation will move enough air to keep you alive if all fans fail.

    1. R H Barber says:

      Local contractor ( Howard Cooke Construction) built Swiss designed blast proof shelters with hand cranked high volume fan for fresh air.

  2. Dennis says:

    Another problem with bunkers is that you are now “stuck” in a location. Which means, in the case of bad guys, they can either create a siege situation or pour stuff down your ventilation intakes, from waste to gasoline and now you’ve got some real problems.

    Security through obscurity for any typical in-ground bunker should be one of the first considerations.

    At least, that’s the way I view it 😉

  3. Grey says:

    You left out 3 other key ingredient’s that the stereotypical bunker needs and is often not considered in the first draft.

    – a back up exit (even a stupid rodent knows to have more than one way out of its nest!) after all, a full on siege can be conducted by just one determined person with a rifle if you only have one exit, no matter how well camouflaged, when that exit is discovered.

    – an ability to see the situation around the bunker without leaving its shelter (peepholes, periscope, etc.) preferably multiple non-electric sorts.

    – effects of moisture (mold, rust, etc.)on such a sealed enclosed space, even with good ventilation.

    1. Lauren J says:

      Great points, Grey. These should all be considered along with the weaknesses we’ve pointed out.

  4. Nick says:

    I’d rather build a castle! Not the crap on Doomsday castle but something real and beefy. You could use earth berm or earth filled walls for extra strength.

    1. Anthonyk747 says:

      How about an underground labyrinth inside the castle? That way everyone else will get lost and die in traps, while you’ll survive and know your way around (till you get too old, that is).

      1. frankie says:

        you could make the bunker a labyrinth in and of itself with a living quart res supply room,etc all in the center, in which case you would have multiple escape routes all well hidden with motion alarms, pressure detectors, and even motion activated cameras near each one

  5. Mike says:

    big load of quack, “survial” seriously?

    1. Buck says:

      When a person, such as yourself has never been to another country and actually seen and experienced the need for such survival tactics, then he really doesn’t know. It’s always better to have a plan, than believing that the government will always have your bak in every situation. Those that believe the government can and will always be there to protect them are usually the first to die in these situations

  6. NiteClerk says:

    I’ve never agreed with outward opening doors. It would suck if your house/basement/ a tree, whatever blew down and blocked your primary egress. Since I don’t expect an A Bomb to go off withing 10 miles of my shelter, I think I’m fine with my door opening inward. It increase my options for survival.

  7. Anon. says:

    Mold will be the big problem it brought down-cut short, a soviet space mission very early because they did not consider it. NASA has a solution to deal with the problem but i don`t know what it is off hand but we could not be in space for more than a week or so without it. This would be a big problem if we ever go to mars due to the supply problem. FYI Hospitals years ago did use UV Light to kill pathogen`s now it is being included in air handlers in some cases to cut down on the spread of pathogen`s. You will have to look into it further but you can see bacteria etc. under UV Light and use a hand held unit to see it on walls, floors or other surfaces so it could come in handy even in everyday life not just a survival situation.

    1. Anon says:

      I forgot to add, this product is excellent for wound healing for all animals including humans,it was recommended buy someone who does just that. Him and his family use on themselves when they get a cut, they live on a fame and have various animals including pet dog`s, it`s all natural, non toxic, and kills just about everything including MARSA you can get it on amazon.com the name of it is Vetericyn Wound & Skin Care
      Vetericyn Plus All Animal Wound and Skin Care | Animal Wound Spray – Itch and Sore Relief – Cleans Cuts and Relieves Irritation – 8-ounce
      Size:8-Ounce Pump
      Style:All Animal

  8. BasilBJr says:

    Even if you solve all the other problems, there is still how do you keep from going nuts from being in an enclosed space for an extended period of time.

    1. Sir says:

      Chess, checkers, games, puzzles and conversations.

  9. Bemused Berseker says:

    I know folks don’t like the idea of outward opening doors but in the case of a shelter or bunker, they serve better for several reasons. An inward opening door takes up space inside for one thing, as the arc for the door has to be accounted for. Short of a solid steel door, frame and multiple locking points, an inward opening door works best for anyone trying to break in, an outward opening works against them, that’s just plain physics.
    No dwelling/shelter should be limited to one door, that’s just common sense. That’s why you can’t build a structure with only one opening in any city in the US because of fire code (sheds are exempt from this rule, unless they reach a certain size).
    Location, location, location isn’t just a business model dogma, it applies to underground bunkers as well. Soil condition, water table, annual rain/snow fall and a host of other factors play into making and underground shelter viable or not. There are many areas, where the problems an underground dwelling can have/develop are really insurrmountable for the average person of modest means. Building an effective underground shelter requires planning upon planning and even the slightest detail cannot be ignored, because once it’s in place, revamping and re-engineering becomes a logistical and costly nightmare.
    So unless you’ve really got your s**t together and have deep pockets, building an underground bunker is not for the squeamish. Buy a Shipping Container and place it strategically on your property, taking advantage of the lay of the land. You not only need to be able to get to it quickly, but you need to be able to safely leave it quickly as well. Save the underground stuff for tornado/bomb shelters to use as temporary and situational shelters.

  10. Steve says:

    Shipping containers are made for underground habitation. While their corners are substantial for stacking during shipping overseas, surrounding a shipping container with the sideways pressure of earth that can and does move laterally can cause a collapse of the sides. It could end up being a very large and very expensive coffin!

    1. Steve says:

      Excuse me… shipping containers AREN’T made for underground shelters.

  11. Tim says:

    If you have the money to spend on a shipping container, don’t, the sides won’t hold up to the side pressure of being buried. Use pre-cast bn square concrete culverts that fit together. They come on different sizes and configurations. I stayed in this style when in the military during exercises.

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