How to Build a Survival Shelter in the Basement of Your House

In the event of an emergency, such as a tornado or hurricane, it's important to have a safe shelter to retreat to in your home.

Tornados can emerge quickly and cause serious damage.
These serious weather situations can cause high winds and flying debris capable of seriously damaging and even destroying homes. Homes with a basement are perfectly equipped for a survival shelter as these underground areas provide the safest retreat. Taking the time to prepare and maintain these areas can save valuable time in the event of an emergency situation, especially in the case of tornadoes, which can occur with very little warning. .

Outline the area where you will construct your survival shelter. This space should be free of other items and set aside for the shelter and shelter supplies only. A shelter designed to protect your family from tornadoes should provide about 5 square feet of space per person, as this type of storm is typically short lived. For hurricanes, allow 10 square feet of space per person.

Construct four walls and a ceiling separate from the basement's existing ceiling and walls. Unless you are constructing a new house and can have these reinforced with steel beams, they will not provide adequate protection. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends using reinforced masonry for the most cost efficient shelter construction.

Stock your shelter with a minimum of three days' worth of food and water. Provide one gallon of water per person per day. Select non-perishable items such as canned goods for sustenance. Consider the distinct needs of each family member when preparing your supplies and include items such as medications, formula and baby food when necessary.

Pack an emergency kit with a batter powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, matches, emergency candles and a first aid kit. Include items you will need for eating as well such as utensils and a hand-operated can opener. Basic sanitary items including diapers for babies, toilet paper and moist wipes should be stocked as well.

Prepare a file with photocopies of important documents to keep in your shelter. This should include documentation on insurance and identification.

Place blankets, jackets, sleeping bags and other comfort supplies in your shelter for comfortable rest and relaxation while you are there.

Things You Will Need

  • Reinforced masonry
  • Water
  • Canned goods
  • Battery powered radio
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Matches
  • Candles
  • First aid kit
  • Eating utensils
  • Can opener
  • Copies of important documents
  • Blankets or sleeping bags


  • Check on your food and water supplies every 6 months and replace items that are about to expire with fresh ones as needed.
  • Reevaluate the needs of your shelter every three to six months if you have small children or once a year if you have older or no children. Add medication or baby supplies if needed.
  • Practice emergency rehearsals with your family so everyone knows where to meet and what to grab, such as cell phones and shoes.

About the Author

Mandi Rogier is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about a wide range of topics. As a previous employee of Walt Disney World, she enjoys writing travel articles that make use of her extensive knowledge of Orlando theme parks.