In today's turbulent times of war, terror and natural disasters, bunkers are becoming more popular as people prepare for emergencies.

In the wake of the deadly tornado in Oklahoma, more and more people are preparing for the worst and are looking into ways to protect their families.

Scott Hunt, consultant for Practical Preppers worries that some people are taking preparation too far.

“I see people putting millions into bunkers, and not having enough money left over for food,” he says.

There may be a fine line between what is guaranteed to provide protection in an emergency and what is over the top, but most people would have no idea what is necessary for protection.

James Wesley Rawles, the author of How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, says a shelter needs to be “in effect, a modern-day castle able to provide for its inhabitants and protect them from any outside danger.”

However, that still leaves many people wondering just what will protect them from that danger and what is overkill. Some people spend millions on hardened underground bunkers while others think reinforced basement walls will be sufficient.

It all boils down to what the structure is intended to protect residents from. For most people, it would be natural disasters caused by climate change, but for others it may be intruders.

Hunt suggests considering a repurposed structure as a bunker. Some people use modified abandoned missile silos while others find shipping containers make resilient, sturdy structures.

Shipping containers are useful as bunkers for many reasons. They are inexpensive and easy to transport, air and water tight, and designed to withstand extremely heavy loads.

As they are made of steel, they can easily be modified with basic electric or hand tools. They can also be placed side to side or one on top of the other to allow for expansion of the shelter.

shipping container bunker

A shipping container being lowered into pit below the ground.

Hunt says people preparing for disaster need to decide what potential threats could harm the region before choosing a blueprint. He suggests choosing a design and materials that suit the environment. In an area with continuous storms, a circular hurricane-resistant structure might be the best option.

Rawles says the shelter must be hardened and suggests replacing or installing doors with steel door frames. He also suggests if intruders create the most concern, people should plant thorn bushes beneath the windows to deter invaders.

At least part of the bunker structure should be underground. The underground room should have reinforced walls and store communication devices, emergency supplies including food and water, and a safe for valuables.

Doors of the bunker should always open inward so people are not trapped by debris from a tornado, hurricane or bomb.

JG Dundee designed an Elenin shipping container survival bunker said to withstand the three main threats associated with the Elenin comet that some feared would crash into the earth a few years ago.

Though the comet did not hit, the design can be implemented for future disaster planning. The threat categories it offers protection from include seismic activity such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, solar storms causing intense heat and communications failure, and the effects of the earth tilting such as coastal flooding, river course alteration and burst dams.

The shipping container design proves efficient because it is inexpensive, can be constructed quickly, has massive structural strength, and can be constructed by an average person with basic equipment.

Dundee’s design steps for a shipping container bunker begin with digging a large pit big enough to place a 20 or 40 foot shipping container, which should be located where the door can open without being obstructed in an emergency.

The container is then lowered into the pit and a U-shaped ventilation pipe should be pushed through a six-centimetre diameter hole in the top of the structure.

The structure should then be covered with a shielding material such as radiation or thermal shielding appropriate to the potential risks. Some examples include timber, soil, and concrete.

A bunker should provide peace of mind. There are enough threats in today’s world to make anyone a little paranoid but having a safe haven from imminent threat can allow people to feel more relaxed and prepared should disaster strike.

Shipping containers may be a logical solution for many people as there is no shortage of them worldwide.