How To Build a Fallout Shelter
for 24 people
in ten days
for less than $5,000 Canadian

If you need additional free help, you can E-mail me for free consultation at [email protected]

This will provide you with COMPLETE fallout protection.
If you don't own land where you can do this -
then perhaps you can rent land from a farmer -
and get his cooperation by offering to share the shelter.

Best to locate a well - water source -
before putting in a shelter -
but time is of the essence.
Here is the quickest easiest method
for you to put in a shelter at the moment.


Buy two old school bus bodies>
(May have engines in them)

Should cost $200-400 each. (say $600 total cost)
Have them towed to a junk yard.
(If they are not already there).
Towing cost less than $100 each. (say $200 total cost)
Have them stripped at the junk yard.
EXCEPT for the back axle and wheels.

a. Remove ALL glass.
b. Remove seats (can leave one or two for place to sit)
c. Remove gas tank and all fluid receptacles
d. Have front cut off back to door way (including engine compartment frame)
(Stripping cost about $200 each).
And store at wrecking yard.
Schedule to be brought to shelter site by tow truck (which is to take back rear wheels).

Purchase 16 sheets of 3/4inch construction grade (cheapest) plywood. (Less than $500).
And store at shelter site.

Purchase (3) 12 feet long 32 inch (or larger) in diameter heavy corrugated culvert. (Less than $500).
And store at shelter site.

Purchase 4 rolls heavy grade tar paper (Less than $200).
Purchase 2 ten gallon containers of tar (Less than $100).
Purchase 2 application brushes and tarpaper sealing tape. (Less than $50).
Purchase from scrap yard (2) twelve foot lengths of material that can be used as steel ladder.
Store all of the above at the shelter site.
Door covers can be gotten later but you may need some scrap steel -
to fit the buses together. (Less than $50).

Schedule backhoe for 1 ten hour day. (About $500).
Schedule two backhoe helpers (Less than $300).
Schedule Welder to come in afternoon for 4 hours. (Less than $400).

Construction Day

Digging the hole

Start early with backhoe.
Dig long enough for two buses.
IMPORTANT: Dig down and scrape down -
only so far. It is important that the buses sit on undisturbed soil -
so that the soil will not compact under them
and let the buses settle - when you backfill.
Can slope at front to have tow truck back them in -
or backhoe can lift (drop) them in.

Preparing the buses on site

Call for buses.
Have tow truck bring torch and cut off back wheels and take them away.
One truck can bring one bus at a time if distance not too great.
If back hoe is to drop them in -
truck can start bringing them early in the morning.

Drop buses into hole FACE to FACE.

Have welder weld together with SUPPORT between the two buses.
Have welder cut one 10 foot length of culvert in half.
Have welder weld halves HORIZONTALLY to OPEN rear door bus openings.
Have welder weld (2) other 12 ft. culverts VERTICALLY to horizontal culverts.
Have welder cut entrance between Vertical and Horizontal culverts.
Have welder weld in two ladders.

While welding is ongoing -
use portable generator to run skill saw to cut and place plywood along windows.
The wood can be bolted on (best)
screwed on -
wired on.
Mainly so it stays in place during back fill.

IMPORTANT: It is best to brace
the bus inside
with planks on the floor
running down the center of the bus
and 6inch posts (3) 2x6 nailed together -
every four to six feet
holding double 2x6 against the roof.
Not everyone does this - but see the story below.
You can probably take out the supports later
or for greater security leave them in permanently.
If you do take out the supports you can use them -
for bunk building.

Cover shelter with tar paper.
Heavily tar the whole thing -
especially around joints on culvert and culvert to bus.

Back filling

It is IMPORTANT when backfilling -
to drop some fill in for about a foot at a time -
on alternate sides of the bus
rather than filling up one side all at once -
because the latter is likely to push the bus to one side
- or worse yet to cause the bus to lean over and
break or weaken the rib structure.

Some further hints.
It is best that the vertical culvert extend a foot below the horizontal culvert -
and a foot above ground.

Additional openings of pipe are often beneficial
for bringing in power lines, telephone, etc.
and for exhaust -
but even smaller pipe must have the 90 degree EXTENDED turn
described for the culvert
and should start out horizontally from the top of the bus,
and run out a two or three feet before turning towards the surface.

If you use pipes like this for air intakes -
they should extend 4 feet above the surface -
and then make a 180 degree downturn towards the ground.
The reason for this is that fallout
falls out of the air (hence its name) and onto the ground -
but the air itself flowing through the shelter
will not contain enough that it needs to be filtered.

If you still wish to filter
a wet bed sheet over the air intake
down in the shelter
will do the trick.

Equipment and cost

Cost so far: $3600 [These were Canadian dollars so would presently be less than that amount in US]

Generator: - $1500
Portable toilet - $200
Radio (SW) - $200
(or maybe $50 from Radio Shack)
Battery lights - $100
Water purifier - $100
Miscellaneous - $300
Total $6000

sufficient space for about 24 people,
depending upon bunk arrangement and so forth.
60x8= 480

Supplying, further equipping
and so forth will get you up to around 10K Canadian

My Best Shelter Design Yet
Below is a bit more elaborate design for about 40 people
which includes a much better entrance
and two escape /air intake hatches.

It would cost less than $5K US
and I think it is the neatest design
that I have come up with to date.

A three bus & culvert shelter

There happened to be different bus sizes,
for this actual shelter -
but any three buses will do.
It is IMPORTANT to say
any three SCHOOL buses -
because school buses - by Federal Standards -
have especially high standards for ribbing strength.

Those areas marked as dog houses
aren't really for dogs
(although I guess they could be)
but they are areas to get from the towers
to the shelter.
We built ours out of old furnace inserts.

This shelter uses culvert for the escape / airvent towers
and the main entrance.
Three feet to forty inches diameter is enough for the towers
but you need about 6 feet diameter for the entrance.
Because it is on an angle
a person over six feet tall will have plenty of headroom.
You will also need to build some steps inside it.

What Went Wrong?
(This email from a builder)

I emailed you about a year ago about ventilation on a bus. Got the bus towed to my property a month ago. Stripped inside, removed front fenders, and put plywood over windows. The track hoe and dozer arrived last Tuesday 5-25-04.

Covered bus with 6mill black plastic, spread plastic in hole, then wrapped and tacked to the sides then spread another layer over the entire bus. Then coveered with felt paper.

PVC vent pipe was installed and dirt filled around sides. About two feet of dirt was placed on roof. About one hour after the equipment operators left, my wife and I were standing in the area and whooosh the top of the bus caved in!!! 20 feet of the 25 foot bus caved in to the floor. What went wrong?

I lost everything, the bus, tools, lumber and supplies, it took me a year to pull this project off. I lost two thousand dollars not counting my time, in less than five minutes I would have been inside the bus.


I wrote the builder twice, trying to find out what went wrong.
But, I can only speculate - since he never responded.
My speculations and questions to him were as follows:

    a. In his first email to me he had mentioned a 48 passenger bus -
    and I was now wondering if it was a school bus.

      I want to use a 48 pass. bus for my shelter.I donot understand how you make the entrance. I thought about going in from the top. Also not clear on the ventilation. Any info you can give I would be thankful.

    b. I never discussed with him issues of soil and many other things. Usually, people get back to me for further guidance as they progress.

    c. Many of the things that I now stress as IMPORTANT on this web page, I have added because of this experience but while I have heard of many bus fallout shelters being built this is the first catastrophe that I have heard of.

    d. I questioned how the backfilling took place. The mentioning of dozer concerned me and I could see a dozer pushing the soil in from one side and knocking the ribbing out of square breaking their welds. Worse yet, I could imagine a dozer going over the top and weakening ALL the welds.

    e. Since we never discussed further - the question of bracing never arose. Even when one uses just soil to backfill, it is best to wet it down and let everything settle over a period of time before removing the bracing. I am very careful about removing bracing. Taking out a little here and a little there at a time. I knock it out with a sledge and have a path picked out to run at the very second. Fortunately, he never got that far.

    f. When one has not built a concrete shelter it is best to only put a couple of feet of soil on top and to mark off that area with a fence so that no vehicles go across it. Certainly not any bulldozers.

Anyway, I give you all this information as caution. But don't be put off by this one person's experience. I have heard of many bus fallout shelters, and this is the only disaster (fortunately not a tragedy) that I have heard of - (with the exception of WACO where it took an army to burn them all out and kill the children).