Our main topic in this ar­ticle will be the factors in­volved in the design/fabrica­tion of the shelter itself. We will not be including a detailed discussion of the agents (CW) and microorgani­sms (BW) also called "germs". However, we will list them and touch on them briefly. (If you want details see Duncan Longs book "Surviv­ing major chemical accidents and Chemical/Biological Warfare"). Likewise, we will not be going into the details of individual survival out­side of the shelter (such as gas masks, protective suiting, antidotes, etc.), but will touch on items that relate to the shelter design such as collective protectors, which is the big gas mask and things like wind, location, etc.).

As you are probably aware BW/CW information is very scarce due to security reas­ons and only about 10% is available to us (those trying to survive who are not gov­ernment employees). I have used every tactic I know of to glean what I have (includ­ing, finally, registered letters to the government BW/CW warfare people and with some success!). Because of this security problem I want you to know where I got the information I am putting in this article. It includes:

  • My own personal exper­ience in the military.
  • DOD: Chemical warfare dept.
  • Military manuals.
  • Civil Defense (FEMA).
  • Suppliers of equip­ment (both military and commercial/ind­ustrial).
  • References such as newspapers, TV, radio and other news media as well as text books.

The chemicals used in chem­ical warfare are called ag­ents. They include nerve, blister, blood and harass­ing agents (like tear gas, vomiting/choking gas and even LSD and other hal­lucinatory chemicals).

The biological microorgani­sms include bacteria, rickettsiae, viruses, fungi, pro­tozoa and toxins (made both by plant and animal). A gr­eat advantage of biological weapons is the fact that once you get the disease going it is often self-sustaining. A good example is AIDS (what better way to spread it than by using the second most human drive... that of sex). I have no idea where AIDS originated but you can see how disease th­at can far... be cured or vaccinated against, can easily spread. You can also see how hopeless it would be during a war to do the work necessary to stop such a plague! The on­ly solution is DON'T GET IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Many factors are invol­ved in BW/CW war. These may also affect shelter design. Here are some of the factors:

Temperature: The higher the temperature the great­er the evaporation of liq­uid chemicals and hence the persistence of the gas. This will also give you a clue as to enemy intent to launch an attack. If it is very hot they won't have a lot of luck.

Temperature gradient: This is a valuable tool for you, as well as the enemy. All it really means is: does the temperature go up, down or remain const­ant as you go up in height (close to the earth's sur­face)? Unstable air causes high vertical air currents and can disperse gas very rapidly. Targeting people must have this data. You can measure it by taking the temperature (°F) at the one foot level and at the six foot level. The value at one foot is then sub­tracted from that at the six foot level. This is a number and it can be plus, minus or zero. The arith­metic sign is important. As an example, if the temperature at six feet was 38° and at the one foot level it was 40°, the number would be a minus two. Three conditions are possible. The first cond­ition is the NEUTRAL sit­uation where the tempera­tures are about the same, (if the two measurements are not more plus/minus two degrees apart, then the neutral condition exists). This is normally found on heavily overcast days or nights. It also sometimes prevails an hour or two before or after sunrise or sunset. The most unstable condit­ion is when the temperat­ure gets colder as you go up in altitude; this is known as the LAPSE condition. If the gradient number is more than minus two, the LAPSE condition exists. It is usually found on clear or nearly clear days. The fin­al condition is known as a TEMPERATURE INVERSION and this condition exists when the gradient is more than PLUS two. It is found on clear or nearly clear nig­hts and early in the morn­ing, until about an hour after sunrise. In this con­dition very little convect­ion air currents exist and this is the most stable condition. Figure 1 lists the three conditions.


Figure 1 – Vertical temperature gradient conditions.

Wind: Wind is important in that it can blow anywhere (even back on the enemy!). Note that wind here is the ground wind and not the high altitude wind as in a NUDET scenario.

Humidity: Human bodies abs­orb more gas in a high hum­idity condition. We hope your BW/CW shelter has no leaks (discussed later), but if it does, a high ET or THI (see Nuclear shelter info, for story on Effective Temp., or Temperature-Humidity Index....we hope to have an article on this later), conditions will be worse. High ET is a Nuke shelter problem and will make a BW/CW shelter combined with a Nuclear Shelter worse if it has a small leak.

Precipitation: Rain can wash chemicals away, but if non-hydrolyzing it (hydrolyzing means to form compounds in water) concentrates the chemical, be careful of water concentrations when you leave the shelter. Ice and snow can keep the chemicals concentrated as they slow evaporation.

Cloud cover: This keeps the sun's heat away and slows evaporation.

Terrain: Both the shape and the vegetation can effect dispersion; figures 2 and 3 show terrain effect.

Figure 2 – Toxic clouds flow to low places


Figure 3 – Toxic clouds follow the contour of the terrain.

Figure 4 – Toxic liquids contaminate personnel more effectively if dispersed on vegetated areas rather than on bare ground.

If you happen to be outside be sure to stay away from vegetation because the chem­icals will stick to plants, etc.; see Figure 4.

It would be helpful to know if an attack had taken place (double check for shelter operation, etc.). We will be looking at BW clues a little later in this art­icle and some of those also apply for CW attack clues. The military uses two detect­ion schemes. The first is called the subjective. It includes such things as visual evidence like a porous surface like brick, dry roads, etc., that only show oily spots while on a slick surface there may be an iridescent film). A hard surface (metal, etc.) may actually con­tain liquid drops. Gases can also produce a "smokey" look in the air. Of course, if you are outside you can get body irritations (eyes, nose and all mucous glands) from even very small doses (we will have to leave dosage to another art­icle, but it doesn't take much for most of the "modern" war gases). Likewise tightness in the chest and dimmed vision (of course love can produce these last two so beware!).

The objective scheme (opposed to the subjective), uses a measurement system. One standard way to do this is by noting the change in color in certain chemicals when combined with the war gases. Military field kits are available to do this (they change with time but 3 known types are the M9A2, M-15 and M-18). The caution, I always give on surplus, is to be sure to check for expiration dates. You would almost need a chemist in the group to know if a kit was good. The ultimate is the auto alarm which detects the gas and sounds an alarm.

Most of you are aware of the Nuclear Shelter problem. Two new requirements show up with the BW/CW shelter. First, you must always keep a slight positive pressure in the sh­elter so that NO chemicals or bio germs can enter. This means that some form of power will be needed at all times when an attack is under way. Secondly, you will need a "big gas mask" (BW/CW filter) to filter the entering air so no gases or germs can enter (more on filters a little later). If you have an underground (di­rt covered) FALLOUT Shelter, you are partway there. If you have a Blast shelter, you are much closer to what you will need (the dirt cover and underground aspect helps to get rid of cracks thro­ugh which agents and germs can enter). If you are hav­ing to "make do" with some other structure, you are not in as good a position. Such an "unventilated" shelter might get you by if the att­ack was light and you didn't see much and/or had some mask and suit protection. A large, sealed cavern (with existing air supply) might be useful, especially if you could seal the entrance. If the wind is high and you have some cracks, the gases can creep into almost any shelter. Figure 5 shows some wind des­ign considerations when loc­ating the shelter entrance. Be sure you know the prevailing wind conditions of your prob­able refuge so you can arrange the "best possible" situation for the most time

Figure 5 – BW/CW wind/entrance considerations

As in a Nuclear shelter it is important to have some right angles (in a Nuclear shelter one is usually suff­icient for radiation but in a BW/CW shelter many are better to deflect the gases). The entrance runway should also be sloped UPWARD so no heavier-than-air gases will continue up the runway. A lot of baff­les (walls) are good to help break up and lengthen the path of the gas. Figure 6 shows this scheme.

Figure 6 - Baffle walls in a BW/CW shelter are used to extend and break up the gas travel path A baffle scheme can also be achieved by using curtains as shown in Figure 7 (military dimensions are also shown).

Figure 7 - Protective curtains as baffles in a BW/CW shelter

We will see how these prot­ective curtains work when we look at "air locks" next. As people enter (and leave) the shelter it is necessary to have an air lock to prevent gases from entering the main shelter (this also helps prevent loss of pressure). Either doors, with air tight rubber seals or gas proof curtains, can be used. For Military use, the curtains are 7 feet long and 35 inches wide. They consist of two layers of cloth. The first is the in­side layer and is a cotton bla­nket while the outside layer is impermeable cotton cloth. Wood strips are nailed horizontally to the front and back of the curtain. Additionally, each curtain has grommets along the sides to attach weights to help keep it in place. Figure 8 shows a typical air lock (we will get to the anti backdraft valve and the pressure regulator design a little later herein).

Figure 8 – A typical air lock system

If the facility is to in­clude stretcher cases (person­nel retrieved from the scene) then it will be necessary to include an air lock with stretcher admission. Figure 9 shows how this is done.

Figure 9 – Air lock configured to admit a stretcher

When personnel are brought into the shelter and they are contamina­ted, it will be necessary to decontaminate them. The facilities to do this are shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10 – Decontamination room in a ventilated shelter

We noted the need for anti-backdraft valves, pressure re­gulators and air deflectors earlier (in previous diagrams). They are not hard to make (home-made) so you get a break here.

Figures 11
A and B, 12 and 13 show these 3 items of hardware. Note that if you expect to get some blast (conventional), you need a blast plate. For a combined Nuke/BW/CW shelter in a blast zone, you would also need the nuclear blast valves (See Directions July 1987 for a discussion on Nuclear Blast valves).

Figure - 11A – Anti-backdraft valve  

Figure - 11B – Blast plate for anti-back draft valve 

The purpose of this valve is to control the static pressure. It lets air out of the shelter (at a controlled rate) and is the means of scavenging the air out of the air locks and shelter auxiliary rooms. The duct is 8" on each side and is mounted 20° off of the vertical. The rod and count­erweight can be adjusted to control the pressure. This valve should be mounted 30" from the floor.

As noted in the text, if you expect conventional blast you need a blast plate to protect the valve. This plate is then mounted over the duct opening for the anti-backdraft valve. The area that is covered with holes should be about 1.2 times the area of the hole opening in the anti backdraft valve (a little extra). No dimensions were given for the hole size, but small was the word used!

The air pressure must also be controlled between the various sections of the shelters (rooms). The air pressure regulator is shown in Figure 12. This one is 13 X 17 inches and is made of steel. It has a sliding panel so you can vary the size of the opening. It is bolt­ed to the wall and a gas­ket is used for a good seal (felt, rubber or what have you).

Figure – 12 – Air pressure regulator

  Figure – 13 – The air deflector

Finally we have the air deflector as shown in Figure 13. The purpose is to deflect air around the shelter and auxili­ary rooms so there are no dead spots. You can best check this using smoke (I hate to say cigarette smoke as you can't smoke in shelters because it makes carbon monoxide, but it might be the easiest way to make smoke prior to the actual attack). My suggestion is for everyone to quit smoking while you can handle it NOW; not in the middle of a disaster when your nerves will be shot for other reasons.

Next we come to the "big gas mask" or a s the military calls them " the collective protector" as opposed to the "individual protector"; gas mask. Figure 14 shows one of these units. It consists of a canister (a huge one), a powered blower motor, and an inlet and out­let hose. The one shown in the figure is 34" long, 24" wide and 39" high and weighs 675 lbs. It can pump 300 CFM of purified air. The air hos­es are 5" in diameter with the inlet being 10 feet long and the outlet at 20 feet. The electric motor is 1 HP and the gasoline 1 ½ HP. The canister is classified, but is made up of 7 sections (attached in parallel) and includes three air manifolds, two particulate filters and two charcoal filters. Your odds of having a collect-protector are not very high, but we will look at how filters work and some substitute methods later.

Figure - 14 – The collective protector

If you were lucky, you might liberate one from a military unit that was blasted by nukes, but which was such that the coll­ective protector or at least some spare filters might be OK.

Before moving on lets take a look at filters. This infor­mation may help you do some improvising if you can t get the real thing. The first st­age of a filter is usually mechanical (you will not­ice that the collective protector had "particulate filters" first). These take out very small chunks of solids or liquids (particulates of Nuclear, BW or CW warfare), but still allow the air to pass. Materials that have been used include imp­regnated wool felt, mineral wool, asbestos and paper. The chemical filter is next and you need to learn a new word. It is adsorbent (to absorb means to soak up like a sponge where the water is sucked up into the void spa­ces in the sponge). The adsorb­ing process is a molecular one and involves clinging or adhering at the surface of the adsorbing material. Thus, we need a lot of surface area. How well this works depends upon the material capacity, the rate of adsorption and the amount pre­sent. The task of the chemi­cal filter is tremendous and includes:

  • Not require a lot of space or be heavy
  • Be very porous so it can provide a large adsorption in a small space.
  • Not be corrosive
  • Work in high humidity with same effectiveness
  • Remove toxic gas quickly as the air is moving rapidly and is only in one spot for short time
  • Purify large amounts of air without being "used up", so it must not be changed frequently (Incidentally, the govt. told me they automat­ically replace filters when they have been ex­posed to gas, whether or not they are "used up").
  • Be cheap and available

The best thing found so far has been small granules of high grade carbon (in the form of charcoal). It is usually made from wood or wood-like products includ­ing cocoanut shells, peach pits and sugar. Although this works great for war gases and some others it will also allow things like carbon dioxide, car­bon monoxide, ammonia and commercial fuels to pass right through. (The dept. of mines has had a large campaign going for many years to advise people NOT to use war gas masks when exploring mines and caves, thinking that they are going to get oxygen). A gas mask does not make oxy­gen. It only takes out the bad gases in air (and not all of those) and if the air does not contain a full complement of oxygen (loaded with foul air) the mask can not give you a full shot of clean air. This campaign was brought on by a lot of deaths due to exploring caves/mines with govt. surplus masks thinking they would keep you breathing!!

It would be difficult for you to make a war gas filter (if you had the base carbon mat­erial you probably could if you were exceedingly careful). There are places to buy the filters and materials. There are also some "make-do" things you can try. "If it is do or die, you better DO! - That's Survival", Duncan Long's book, quoted, at the beginning of this article, provides some of these answ­ers, and I won't repeat all of that here.

Figure 15 shows an "in-the side-of-a-hill" military she­lter using some of the prin­ciples we have discussed. Notice the right angle entry, air lock and escape tunnel (which we did not mention earlier) and the location of the coll­ective protector (with two intakes and an access area for maintenance, fueling, etc.).

Figure - 15 – A military BW/CW shelter in the side of a hill

Maybe you are faced with a situation where you have some buildings for fallout shelters and the government Civil Service has "upgraded" them by piling dirt on for radiation protection. The government has looked into how to make these into BW/CW shelters, too (in this case the govt. is the milit­ary and not CD as they have made no allowance in Civil Defense for either BW or CW warfare protection. All they have considered is fallout shelters for civ­ilians (no blast shelters), so if you end up in one you will have to show them how to make it work for BW/CW!

Figure 16 shows an existing building so "rigged up".

Figure – 16 - A building rigged for "make-do" BW/CW shelter (assumes that dirt has bean piled on for radiation protection; fallout zone only).

Air flow in such a building is very important and Figure 17 ill­ustrates one such flow. A maj­or problem would be sealing up all the cracks (chimneys, electric/plumbing pipes, electrical out­lets, windows, doors etc.).

Figure – 17 - Showing the airflow in the building illustrated in Figure 16.

Use of the 300 CFM coll­ective protector we saw ea­rlier would be OK, but it would take several to do the job here (the advantage of several is that if one goes off line you still have some operating but the disadvantage is in the ineff­icient operation). The govt. has larger sizes including 600, 1200, 2500 and 5,000 CFM units.

In this large a shelter, pressure has to be balanced pretty close and you would need a draft gauge or mano­meter. Once again, testing for flow is usually done with smoke. Smoke is released outside (tear gas is good) and those inside check for odor. Smoke is also released inside and leaks checked outside. Smoke is best used for flow distribution and the appropriate deflectors installed. Pressure differentials, in this particular installation, should be about 0.3 inches of water for the outer air lock, 0.4 for inner air lock, 0.5 for the shower room and 0.6 for the main enclosure.

Finally, lets take a quick look at ways of disseminat­ion of BW/CW weapons, clues for BW warfare at work (you can not use any of your senses of smell, sight, taste, hearing or touch) to detect the actual germs) and the best way to protect from the BW warfare. Figure 18 shows some of the dissemination schemes.

  Figure – 18 – BW dissemination schemes (note that most also work for CW)

Figure – 19 – BW/CW clues  

Figure – 20 – BW protective measures


This is a large subject and we won't have room for it all here but let me give you a few thoughts.

CW Decon: Weathering is one solut­ion. Evaporation and decomp­osition will eventually get rid of the threat.

Aeration: This means to force air through the chemicals It may be hard to do.

High Temperature and Fire: You already know how tempera­ture works. If the chemical is in grass, vegetation, etc.; you don't want to save, you can bum it (STAY OUT OF THE SMOKE.).

Moisture and water: For those that hydrolyze you can make new substances that are less harmful or not harmful. It is a slow process but rain will help (if the chemical does hydrolyze). Bright sunlight works two ways. First, the higher temperature causes evaporation. Secondly, sun radiation can cause chlo­rine to split from chlorinated organic compounds (war gases).

Steam and hot water: Increas­es the hydrolyzing action and volatility.

Chemicals: These can be very _ effective but are also DANGER­OUS! Chlorinated bleach is good but you must be protected (sp­ecial clothing, mask etc.). If you are in the disaster, with swimming pool bleach, hang on­to it (good for DECON and even water purification). For mustard liquid you need dry bleach mix­ed with sand. Bleach slurry (made with water and chlorine in sus­pension) and bleach paste (this is made adding bleach SLOWLY to water until a paste is made) are good to apply to ceilings. There are several more but you get the idea.

BW Decon: Both personal and area decon is required. For personal it is mainly washing; (use a good soap and wash extra long especially in the hair areas). Brush teeth, gums, roof of mou­th and tongue. There is no "best" compound for killing germs. The war lords may give all sorts of immunity to their genetically invented germs. In the past, four good compounds were: Form­alin (37% formaldehyde in water with some methanol), ethylene oxide, chlorine (slurry as for CW) and lye in solution (if we get to soap making we will show you how to make your own lye).

Maybe in a later article we can give you more details. BW/CW is "hell on earth" and it won't be easy to defeat but you must give it a try!


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Saturday, 02 December 2023

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to