Root cellar: shelter and pantry in one

Since the very beginning of the Polish version of our blog, on many different ocasions, we used a root cellar as a great example of modern survivalism and preparedness ideology. A root cellar is a great example, because on one hand it allows us to improve the quality of our life, by storing food free of maintenance costs, in temperatures close to refrigerators, without the need to use electricity, and when the crisis comes, in terms of a nuclear war, a tornado, or even very strong winds, will allow us to take good cover and be safe. A root cellar will keep us safe from strong winds and radiation. One that’s well built will keep us safe even from the nuclear blast.

You don’t need much to be protected from radiation. Concrete that this cellar is made of is a pretty good protection against radiation, but packed dirt also provides a good protection. So you only need to cover the cellar with enough dirt. One feet (30 cm) of packed dirt absorbs 90% of radiation. Two feet (60 cm) absorb 99%, and three feet (90 cm) — 99,9% of radiation. So you only one-meter-thick (3 feet) layer of dirt to feel safe in the cellar.

Of course, if this layer is penetrated by rainwater carrying particles of radioactive dust, the protection will be much worse. Because of that, on top of the 3 feet layer of dirt one should place a layer of plastic foil, and some additional soil for cover plants.

Root cellars were used in Poland (and all over the world) for many generations, as it’s the only solution to keep produce fresh and safe from spoiling for long time, except for refrigerators.

This particular cellar we’re showing here is not suitable for shtf scenarios, as it’s not covered with a layer of dirt. Some time ago it probably was covered. Because of that, we can show you how it’s built.

Come on, let’s walk inside. The root cellar was closed here by the first door. The door was removed, as well as most of the door frame, but in this place there used to be a door. Behind it a small space and second door. The walls had shelves, used probably to store the stuff that was needed the most. If somebody needed it, he could easily take it without going deep inside the cellar.

In this place there was a second door. Pros of having double door in the root cellar are the following. First and foremost: it allowed to have a separate room with a different climate inside. Warmer in the summer, cooler in winter. It also allowed the temperature in the second room to be more stable during the year. It is also quite important.

The root cellar we’re showing in this video had a window or second, smaller door, we’re not sure as there are not many traces left. This door was used to make loading large amount of produce (like potates for example) much easier and faster. If it was supposed to be used as a shelter, this hole would have to be closed and covered with dirt.

This root cellar is not large. The lenght of this room is about 4 meters (12 feet) long, and 2,5 meters (8 feet) wide. It’s more than enough for a couple of people to stay here during tough times. Behind me and in front of me is enough room to install bunk beds for at least 4 people. Below the place where’s the hole that should be closed there’s enough room for a table, maybe a cupboard, a stove for cooking. The rest of space would be used to store food. This is the place where the beds would end, and here we have enough space for two 1 000 liter (260 gal) tanks, so that we would have 2 000 liters (over 500 gallons) of water. Here is room for shelves for storing food, a couple gas canisters or tanks with ethanol fuel. This space could be enclosed with cupboards or a plywood to make a small toilet. If necessary, the first room might be used as a toilet. Time spent there would be short, so the radiation would affect the person there less.

This root cellar has no ventillation system. The doors were probably not airtight, and the air infiltration was sufficient for the food stored there. Food storage requires only limited amount of ventillation. But if you were to stay here for a longer time, much more air would be needed. This ventillation would have to be equipped with an air filter (to keep all the radioactive dust particles outside). It’s good to have this filter outside, so that all the particles collected don’t emit the radiation inside. The ventillation should also have a proper fan to blow enough air inside. The question is if it should be electric-powered, or maybe operated manually. It would be best if it was an electric fan that provided constant, small overpressure, as there’s no way to make the doors 100% airtight. This overpressure would force any leaks to be from inside out.

If you think this kind of root cellar is very expensive, lucklilly you’re wrong. The cost of building one is probably around couple thousand of dollars or euros. Of course, most of you won’t build it, especially that many of you live in the city. But even in this case, if you have an apartment in town and a bug-out location somewhere else, you should consider building such root cellar. If you can’t build even a simplest one, the “Nuclear War Survival Skills” book shows how you can make an expedient fallout shelter within 24 hours. If will keep you safe from the radiation as well.

Krzysztof Lis

M.Sc. in mechanical engineering. Interested in alternative energy sources, biofuels, and preparedness.

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