Fallout Shelters vs Bomb Shelters – What the Difference is and Why It Matters to You

If you’ve been around the prepping world for any length of time, then you’ve probably heard people talk about bomb shelters and fallout shelters at least once. sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably even though they’re very different from each other.

Bomb shelters are designed to protect you from traditional explosions for a short period of time. A fallout shelter is designed to keep you protected from radioactive fallout. This means that it provides filtered air, has clean drinking water and food for long enough to allow the radiation to drop to an acceptable level.

Let’s start by looking at bomb shelters and then take a look at fallout shelters.

What is the Difference Between a Bomb Shelter and a Fallout Shelter

It’s easy to get bomb shelters and fallout shelters confused. They’re both supposed to protect you but they do it in very different ways.

Bomb Shelters

Bomb shelters are the less complicated and less expensive of the two types of shelters.

A bomb shelter is designed to protect you from conventional explosions like rockets, mortars, missiles, and bombs. Think of it as a bunker that you run to if you know that an attack is coming and you need a safe place to wait it out.

They can be as simple as a concrete culvert covered in earth to protect from frag and blast if a bomb hits close by, and they can be as complicated as the massive underground fortifications built by the Germans in WWII. How complex they are depends on what the threat is and how much you’re willing to spend.

What is a bomb shelter made out of?

Bomb shelters are made out of anything that is dense enough to protect the inhabitants from the blast and frag that occurs when detonations occur. Sand and concrete are probably the most common materials used to build bomb shelters because they’re cheap and easy to build with.

Below ground bomb shelters provide a lot more protection to the people inside but they’re also many times more expensive and really overkill for most threats.

What country has the most bomb shelters?

Germany has protected shelters for 3% of its population, Austria for 30%, Finland for 70%, Sweden for 81%, and Switzerland for 114%.

How much does a bomb shelter cost?

Bomb shelters can be really inexpensive. Hesco barriers filled with sand are widely used as bunkers by the U.S. military all over Afghanistan. If you’re looking for an even less expensive method, simple sandbags have been used to build bomb shelters for centuries and it only costs about $35 to have 100 sandbags shipped to your house.

What items are necessary for a bomb shelter?

Most bomb shelters aren’t designed for people to stay in them for extended lengths of time so there isn’t a lot that’s needed inside of them. At a minimum, you should have a quality first aid kit that’s capable of stopping major bleeding and traumatic amputations and water. Beyond that, there isn’t much needed.

If you happen to have a shelter meant to withstand some kind of long term attack, then you’d want to add food and blankets or sleeping bags if you plan to be there that long.

Fallout Shelters

Fallout shelters are a completely different animal than bomb shelters. Bomb shelters are usually above ground and don’t cost a lot to build. Fallout shelters are built below ground and have to be able to support people for long enough to allow radiation levels to fall to safe levels after a nuclear detonation. This makes them expensive and much more involved.

What should be in a fallout shelter?

Fallout shelters are different than bomb shelters. This means that what you need to store in them is a lot different as well.

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re coming up with a list of things that you’ll need in your fallout shelter.

You need everything to keep you and your family alive for the amount of time that you expect to spend in your fallout bunker. This means food, water, and first aid materials.

You also want to try to be able to live as normally as you can while you’re locked in there. Televisions, comfortable beds, reading material, board games, and anything else that you can think of to make your stay as normal as possible.

It’s going to be a stressful time, to say the least, if you’re locked in a fallout shelter. Keeping everyone relaxed and calm is going to be one of the most important things to make staying in a bunker for close to a month more bearable.

How expensive is a fallout shelter?

Fallout shelters range in cost from $5-10 thousand on the low end to many millions of dollars for large fallout shelters built to house the super-wealthy and their families. Fallout shelters build to house elected officials and for government-purposes are off the charts as far as cost goes.

How deep does a bunker have to be to survive a nuke?

It depends on how close the nuke is when it goes off and the size of the weapon and if it’s an airburst or ground burst.

When you’re building a fallout shelter for personal use, you’re not going to put it deep enough in the ground to survive a direct hit with a nuke. Very few bunkers in the world are deep enough to survive a direct hit with a nuke.

Most companies building and installing modern fallout shelters in the United States are burying their shelters about 10-15 feet deep. This varies on the company, type of shelter, and location that they’re being installed in.

How long does nuclear radiation last?

The majority of the radiation will be gone relatively quickly, but there are going to be lasting effects from the residual radiation left behind by fallout.

How long does nuclear fallout last?

The amount of time that nuclear fallout will stay around depends on where you are in relation to the nuclear detonation. It’s possible that you won’t even experience any nuclear fallout if you are upwind from the prevailing winds. If you’re downwind from the prevailing wind direction then you’re going to be in your bunker for about 28 days.

After 28 days, 99% of the hazard associated with nuclear fallout is gone.

How long should you stay underground after a nuclear bomb?

You may need to stay in your bunker for up to 28 days if the fallout was moving your direction. Keep monitoring emergency radio broadcasts to get updates and try to figure out what actually happened. If you’re not picking anything up, or you can’t tell if it’s safe to come out of your shelter, you should stay in there for at least 28 days to let the radiation fall to a level that’s safe.

How long can you live in a fallout shelter?

The exact length of time that you can live in a fallout shelter really depends on the bunker itself. Some bunkers are good for a week and you can stay in some for months or even years!

The more food, water, and air filtration capabilities that you have, the longer you can stay inside the shelter. If you’re storing supplies in your fallout bunker, then make sure that you have enough for you and your family to stay inside for as long as you believe you’ll need to stay in there.


Fallout shelters and bomb shelters are very different but they both serve a purpose. In most parts of the world these days a bomb shelter doesn’t make much sense but with the global threats that are emerging, a fallout shelter may make sense if you have the money.