How A Cargo Container Can Save Your Life

If you've watched the hit TV show Doomsday Preppers, you know there is a growing movement of people who want to make every effort to prepare for hard times. If you're curious about the movement, one of the first things you need to know is that most preppers believe you need a backup plan. A safe place to which to retreat in an emergency is imperative, and lucky for you, they are pretty easy and inexpensive to construct. Here's how to make a fallout shelter with a cargo container.


You'll need to be careful of where you install your shelter, because the excavation required for this project can damage underground water, gas and electrical lines. Even if you live in a rural area, it will still be important to call before you dig. You will also need to consider whether the container can be delivered, and whether heavy equipment will have access to your site. If you can't get a flatbed truck, excavating equipment and a crane on site, it's not a good place to build this type of shelter.


You're going to move a lot of earth for this project, so you will need to rent a backhoe. Excavate a hole slightly larger on all sides than the container you've purchased, and add about an inch of gravel to the bottom of the hole. Before lowering your container into the hole, add a pond liner to the bottom. This will be pulled up over the container to keep moisture from the soil from entering it and ruining your supplies.

Prepare the Container

Your container will need to be retrofitted with a hatch up top, which will be your ingress and egress point. Use a circulating saw with a steel cutting blade and remove a section of the roof large enough to accommodate quick and easy entry. Save the steel section, as that will be your door. While you've got the saw out, go ahead and cut holes just large enough to allow the installation of ventilation ducts. You will need two holes in order to allow enough fresh air into your shelter.


Installing the container is simple and fast. Just lower it into your hole with a crane, pull the pond lining up around the container and secure it by filling in the gap around the container. Start with a foot of gravel, and then use the previously excavated dirt. Sloping the ground gently away from the top of your container will help keep water from pooling at the top, possibly leaking in through the vents or door.

Add the Door and Vents

To create the door to your shelter, securely bolt 2x4 boards to the inside of the hole you cut. This will make a "lip" on which the door can rest. Add a ladder, screwed into the inside portion of the boards. Install simple hinges on one side of the door, and add rubber weather stripping around the inside for added protection against water.

To add the vents, attach the long side of an L-shaped ventilation duct to the ceiling of the shelter with the shorter portion poking up through the hole you cut. You can use a plastic epoxy to seal the duct in place and make the seal water tight. You will need to construct or buy an air pump and install it on one of the vents to prevent air from stagnating.

Safety Considerations

Steel containers are strong and durable, but will not withstand the weight of tons and tons of soil on top. These types of shelters must be sunk into the ground, but not completely buried.

Constructing your own underground shelter can add peace of mind to your everyday life, and cargo containers make a great starting point. If you fill your container with supplies you can be set for just about any emergency. Check out go to websites like this one, and similar ones, to find a cargo container.