Last Updated May 1, 2022

Most people think of bunkers as a secure location for military units or politicians in war-torn states. However, unbeknownst to many people, an increasing number of security-conscious Americans have built or are building this extreme security solution hidden beneath our feet.

Planning Your Underground Bunker Build:

underground bomb shelter

  1. Where to locate your bunker
  2. Assessing duration of use
  3. Threat analysis
  4. Predict occupancy levels
  5. Communication with outside world
  6. Interaction with local resources
  7. Protection options and levels
  8. Utility vs. Luxury features

Where to Locate Your Bunker

There are opposing goals to balance when determining the location of your bomb shelter: on the one hand you want it to be quickly accessible, on the other you want it to be remote from other people.

Option 1: Connected to your home (or property)

A bunker located right where you live is the optimal way to achieve quick access in case of an emergency, whether a tornado or an incoming missile attack. In many scenarios a few minutes can make all the difference.

The fastest possible method is to have access to the bomb shelter directly from your house, often in the form of access from the house’s basement. This may allow you to enter your underground shelter without even needing to expose your position outside.

Connecting a bunker to your home is also the most structurally complex, as it requires integration with your home’s structure.

Option 2: Within Driving Distance

The next best is to have your secure bunker somewhere located within driving distance, somewhere you could arrive to with half a tank of gas. (Expecting to always have your car filled with gas is unrealistic!)


  • Arrive at the location within a few hours’ time, without relying on external forms of transportation (e.g. airplane, etc.).
  • Locate your bunker in a more remote location, with less chance of someone finding it.

Downsides to Mitigate:

  • Maintenance will be more challenging when at a distance. A undergound bomb shelter may need regular maintenance such as by the door opening, which may become covered in foliage.
  • Difficulty of connecting electricity or pluming
  • More time than you may have

Option 3: Central Family Location

A popular option is for a family to create a secure destination for themselves and future generations. This secure estate approach requires finding a usually remote location that is centrally located to the cities one’s family and relatives are located in.


  • Invest in a larger and more secure solution by collaborating with the entire family
  • Provide a location your and future generations can use
  • Possibly double the property as a vacation home

Downsides to Mitigate:

  • The property may not be close to any one person, thus leading to flights being the only way to get to the property.
  • Maintenance will be a challenge especially if the property is a house as well. Consider hiring a local property manager of high caliber.

Learn More: Basement Safe Rooms | Corporate Safe Rooms

Assessing the Duration You’ll Use Your Bunker

The amount of time you plan to stay inside the bunker will result in different preparatory needs. Some people plan to use their bunker for a few minutes in the case of a tornado warning. Others may plan to use their bunker for the long haul in a war scenario. Each of these will result in different requirements, such as:

  • Amount of food stored
  • Amount of water store
  • Entertainment
  • Creature comforts
  • Space
  • Plumbing
  • Access to fresh air

Learn more: Ballistic Window Information | Ballistic Fiberglass Information | Ballistic Kevlar Information

Threats Your Shelter Will Protect You From

People invest in secure bunkers for a variety of reasons. Different threats have different ranges of probability and intensity. For example, a property located in “tornado alley” may be highly likely to face brief but frequent risks of tornadoes several times a year.

On the other hand, a property located in a major coastal metropolitan area may face an low-probability risk of being targeted by biological or nuclear attack, but in that event the threat duration could be days, weeks or months.

People aim to protect themselves and families from a wide variety of threats, including:

  • Civil riots due to flashpoint events
  • Natural disasters, such as tornadoes
  • Explosive devices
  • Biological or chemical attacks by foreign powers
  • Nuclear attacks by a foreign adversary
  • Home invasion or kidnapping attempt
  • Pandemics, leading to global instability
  • Extreme food shortages, leading to looting
  • Electromagnetic pulse attacks
UL chart indicating protection of all ballistic fiberglass levels
Custom safe room entrance.

Planning for The Right Number of Occupants

The amount of people you intend to take sanctuary in your underground shelter will shape the requisite bunker design as well. More people may affect factors such as:

  • More sleeping areas
  • More personal space for awake times
  • Sufficient amounts (with additional margin of error) of oxygen reserves
  • Quantity of meals
  • Entertainment (psychologically important for morale and to minimize occupants clashing!)
  • Secure entrance and exit, allowing people to arrive and depart at different times without compromising those inside.
  • The amount of power needed inside

So, carefully think through who will realistically take shelter with you in an emergency situation. As a default, always plan for at least one or two more relatives or friends to take shelter with you than you expect – it’s hard to turn people away during a crisis, and it’s natural you will want to help them.

Will You Use the Resources Around You? 

Another question to consider is how the secure bunker will be used during a long-duration threat. In many cases, clients expect to be fully sealed inside their bunker until the coast is clear. This may be critical in chemical or biological attacks, among other situations. Here, the bunker must be entirely self-sufficient, with complete stock of food, water, plumbing, power and oxygen.

In other cases, the bunker is intended to be used fluidly within the nature and resources around it. For example, occupants may use the bunker as a home base during the night and most of the day but may go outside occasionally to restock supplies (from stores or even foraging in nature, in extreme cases), power electronics or simply get ventilation.

Protective Feature Selection

An underground bomb shelter is designed from beginning to end to be secure in numerous ways. Each project is different, but may include features such as:

  • Fortified walls made from steel, thick concrete, or other high-strength materials
  • Armored and discreet doors or hatches
  • Protective measures from electromagnetic pulses
  • Secure openings for air with sophisticated filtration systems to block contamination
  • Protected reservoirs of clean water
  • Interior locked cabinets or gun safes for safe storage of firearms inside

Luxury Features

An underground bunker’s purpose is to provide security, so utilitarian features are always first in priority. However, many people building underground bunkers also don’t want a secure yet miserable experience inside, especially if they expect they might need to hunker down there for the long haul.

A bunker’s can be made to be nearly as elegant inside as a proper home. Aesthetically walls can easily be wall papered or painted to remove the drab, cold feeling of steel or concrete. Posters or artwork can even be hung – all important to keeping morale up.

Furniture need not be uncomfortable. Selecting a few stylish and plush items can make a big difference. Some may even aim for modern conveniences, like accenting lighting and sophisticated showers.

Communication Lines

Lastly, although a bomb shelter is generally designed to be hidden, it is important to have communication methods from the inside to the outside world. This allows occupants to understand what the current level of threat is on the outside and communicate with friends, relatives and the authorities that they are in a dangerous situation.

Various technologies exist in the modern age, from traditional means like landlines to modern options like satellite enabled phones.

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