In our second response to “10 Cloverfield Lane,” Paratus Business News asked Paul Seyfried, co-founder and co-owner, of Utah Shelter Systems, for his thoughts on the movie bunker and real-life survival bunkers. Seyfried gave us his thoughts in a series of e-mails. For easier reading, PBN breaks up the story using comments by the editor to set up Seyfried’s comments.
Frills Can Kill
PBN: In the movie “10 Cloverfield Lane,” the bunker includes many appliances to make it feel like home, including an entertainment center.
Seyfried: “(Like the movie) one competitor glitzes up his shelters with home appliances that are absolutely useless when things go in the toilet, since the zillions of dollars in infrastructure needed to run these water and power hungry items will be gone. The space occupied by a washing machine will store a year’s supply of freeze-dried food for an adult. Maybe more.
“A whole family’s supply can fit in the same footprint occupied by the entertainment center. No matter how good your shelter looks, how much food and supplies one has, our lifestyles will change forever if modern warfare comes to us.
“The most important factors in a family’s future (assuming they lived through the fighting component) will be their ability to produce clean, safe, drinking water for a sustained period of time. Maybe two decades. This means they’ll need to be able to generate useful amounts of electricity for water processing, filtration, and other chores.
“Washing and drying clothes in one’s shelter will be very low on the priority list, as will movie watching.
“Even though our shelters today have kitchens made by a custom cabinet shop, and bunks made from furniture-grade plywood, we don’t make shelters that look like motor homes on the inside. We build combat shelters. So they are rather utilitarian and unattractive. Like being in a HUMVEE owned by the 1st Marine Division, compared to an H2 sold to Bill Gates, with DVD player, entertainment center, beautiful mahogany trim package. Fluff wastes money, takes up valuable space for critical supplies.
“Once, we consulted on a shelter that is now up to $17 million, and (the prime contractor) is not finished yet. The prime has upsold the client on super-sized things he will never use (in a SHTF scenario), and will put him at a gross disadvantage on “That Day.”
“Take the 750,000-watt Caterpillar generator. It uses 62 gallons of diesel fuel per HOUR. What he needed was a 35,000-watt unit that uses ONE gallon per hour. But the million-dollar generator set is very impressive to look at and the client can show it off to his friends. It will also drain his 12,000-gallon fuel tank in days.
“My concept was a 5-kilowatt generator set that uses 2 pints per hour to occasionally recharge a modest battery bank every couple of weeks. A tank with 12,000 gallons of fuel would last for YEARS. But the contractor sold him tons of glitzy surveillance equipment, water cannons (he’s out in the middle of the desert), sensor systems, and all this material that requires 30,000 watts of power to run.
“Of course, the contractor gets a 30 percent cut of the cost of all of this useless stuff. We left the project because the prime contractor would not allow us to consult with the end user.”
PBN: In “10 Cloverfield Lane,” Howard (played by John Goodman) claims to have built his bunker himself, to survive nuclear, biological, chemical attacks. Essentially, the character doesn’t claim to have engineering skills specific to building a do-it-yourself bunker.
Seyfried: “Some competitors have no engineering support. Their shelters are not (inspected or approved) by any professional engineers, leaving clients to find their own engineers to get local approval for their shelters. Buyer Beware. There are NO REGULATIONS or building codes being enforced to protect clients from sloppy engineering that could cost them their lives in a real war.
“In Switzerland, a powerful government agency, the BZS, or Federal Office of Civil Defense, harshly regulates exactly what materials and components can be used in shelter construction. Use of uncertified components such as blast doors, valves, air handlers, structural materials will bring fines or jail sentences. Every building intended for human habitation there is required by Federal building code to have a blast-hardened shelter. I spent two weeks there at a factory school in Andelfingen learning shelter ventilation requirements. We inspected shelters in watch shops, churches, factories, banks, hotels, grocery stores, theaters, and butcher shops. When we asked to see their personal shelters, they showed them to us. They all had them.”
Vertical Doors vs. Horizontal Doors
PBN: The bunker in the movie has vertical doors.
Seyfried: “Vertical doors, like the type featured in the film, are required to be seven times stronger than a horizontal door. Vertical doors attract reflected overpressure that multiplies the force exerted on it.
“The shock wave sweeps right over a horizontal hatch without creating reflected pressures.
“Small doors are less money than large doors, and are much easier to make robust and strong.
“Swiss doors, like the one pictured below are blast tested by the Swiss government at destructive test ranges using 500 MK82 bombs, placed 12 feet in front of the doors, which are cast into concrete test bunkers. They are cast into the wall during the pour, allowed to cure for two weeks, then the door leaf is poured full of 7,000 ksi concrete. THIS is a real blast door.
“Most vertical doors for shelters are made by people who’ve never blast-tested their products. I know this because the hinge pins or quite thin, and will shear off instantly when a shock wave bounces the door leaf right off the frame. Take a look at the hinge pins on that Swiss door.
“One more thing: I see entrances in many shelters that penetrate directly through the ceiling. A clue the designer doesn’t have any idea about nuclear radiation attenuation. I see many shelters with large, generously wide entrances, without 90 degree turns. You CAN HAVE large entrances, but you have to have enough LENGTH to provide the needed protection factor. A 90-degree turn means you can have a shorter entrance, but the area of the entrance is a factor in calculating how long it needs to be. You really need a nuclear engineer, using Ed York’s formula, to figure this.”
Robust Air Handlers
PBN: A key scene in the movie centers around the bunker’s air handlers.
Seyfried: “As you look through other web sites, note the shallow depths of burial. Note the chimney-type entrances (totally compromises the protection factor of the shelter). Note the skimpy, untested air handlers, lack of certified blast valves.
“We trust the Swiss because the Swiss government heavily regulates the shelter component industry, and their equipment is lab tested, combat tested (Iran-Iraq War, Iraq War, remember all that “Shock and Awe”?). They insult their gas filters with real battlefield agents, after they are exposed to 16 G’s (g forces) in all six directions to simulate ground shock and vibration. Think any of these domestic, plastic air handlers went through that level of testing? Once I learned I could get certified, lab tested blast valves, I removed my own valves at great expense, and replaced them with Swiss valves.”
Configuration Can Define NBC Capability
PBN: Doors can impact nuclear, biological, chemical safety in bunkers.
Seyfried: “Years ago, a man in the United Kingdom forwarded a website of a shelter company over there that made ‘corrugated steel NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) shelters.’ Its entrance punched right through the ceiling, which made it a storm shelter ONLY. This entrance configuration completely ruined the shelter for any possible use against nuclear fallout.
“I sent pictures of correctly designed entrances to the company to essentially help make their shelters better. I expected no consulting fee, or whatnot. I just wanted them to make a better shelter. No reply.
“It dawned on me that if they suddenly began offering correctly designed shelters, they’d be open to lawsuits from previous customers for the faulty ones. I assume they are still building them unchanged.”
Buyer Beware II
PBN: Customers should do their homework before investing in a survival shelter.
Seyfried: “Some competitors are a whole story unto themselves. For instance, around 2010, a West Coast competitor came to us posing as a customer wanting us to build a shelter for his brother. I explained a few basics of weapons effects and why our shelters are designed the way they are.
“He hung around our production site while I wasn’t there for hours, taking many pictures and studying how we made our shelters. He returned to California and went into competition with us.
“To save money, he shortened up his entrance tunnel to the point where it no longer provides adequate radiation attenuation.
“When I brought this to his attention, he said that most people don’t want a real shelter, just an underground condo. However, he sells his compromised shelter to clients as an NBC shelter.”
Flat-top vs. Round Corrugated Steel Shelters
PBN: The movie’s shelter appears to be corrugated steel. Some companies make flat-top shelters.
Seyfried: “Flat-topped shelters are inherently weak compared with steel cylinder shelters that are either welded steel, or corrugated steel pipe.
“The engineering principle, earth arching, does not work on flat-topped structures. The shelter, if not shaped like an arch, or cylinder, must be robust enough to support the live and static loads placed upon it entirely on its own.
“Reinforced concrete “boxes,” when built to correct standards (the Swiss come to mind here, as they have built 300,000 shelters that can house their entire population, and a million more after that) are capable of handling the stresses mentioned above.
“Nuclear weapons effects gurus like Edwin York mentored us for about 700 hours about a wide spectrum of weapons effects, structure behaviors below ground in a nuclear effects environment, command and control of nuclear forces (ours and theirs), strategy, doctrine, target selection criteria, ladders of escalation, warhead and ICBM design, etc.
“A Minuteman ICBM silo does not rely on earth arching for its strength. It relies on several hundred tons of steel rebar, and 1,100 cubic yards of concrete. Swiss shelters typically feature ceilings of at least 30 inches of concrete and two heavy and dense curtains of rebar. That’s for residential codes (fallout and blast, not to exceed 15 psi overpressure). Swiss military and communal shelters are more robust, with at least a meter of concrete and a meter or more of earth. We prefer at LEAST eight feet of earth over our shelters, with ten feet being the goal.
“Ten feet of earth will protect shelter occupants from all radiations, even those of modified spectrums (neutron, or enhanced radiation weapons). The trick, once you have the required shielding, is getting the correct geometry on the entrances.
“For clients living near nuclear targets, we insist on small diameter entrances, possessing 90 degree turns. Once occupied, the horizontal run of the entrance is stuffed with 5-gallon water containers and bags of rice (rice is thick in hydrogen atoms). When prompt neutrons collide with the hydrogen atoms in the water and rice, it converts into gamma radiation, which is then absorbed readily into the remaining material.
“Corrugated and welded cylindrical steel shelters were among many designs tested at the Nevada Test Site during the atmospheric testing years (up until around 1963, when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was ratified).
“I’ve toured these shelters, seen the broken and charred buildings, bridges, gas station and power substation mockups, they’re all still there. Edwin York, who served on the Manhattan Project and others, was with us during the tour, and added his priceless comments as the tour progressed. It was Ed’s working area for decades.
“We know that corrugated steel shelters provide the best blast protection for the buck. It is plastic and elastic (meaning, it flexes and moves) with ground motions associated with blast effects, which are much like the P-wave (seismic waves) during a major earthquake.
“Rigid structures tend to shatter and break apart from the twisting and torqueing they experience during high blast effects. Take a cardboard shoebox in both hands, from the ends. Twist the right hand outward, and the left hand, toward you. Also, try to break it in half while you are doing this. If you could, throw in extreme vibration.
“The earth compresses about a foot at the 50-psi level (our Sure-Safe blast rating). The overpressure literally “stomps” the surface of the earth downward at least a foot. The live loading, on a flat-topped shelter, will exceed 7200 pounds per square foot. If your flat-topped shelter measures 10 feet wide, and 40 feet long, that’s nearly 3 million pounds on top of your shelter.
“Unless you have some really incredible steel bracing in there, AND the benefit of some really thick concrete pad under the structure into which to transfer all of this force, there will be problems. A bed of gravel under it isn’t going to get it done.
“Corrugated and welded cylinders, however, do not need to support this live load. Buried correctly with the right backfill materials and at the proper depth, earth arching will divert the live load around the cylinder and into the surrounding soil.
“Vibration and ground wave motion are easily handled, as there are no welds in the tube, save those on the bulkheads, to pop loose. Several mechanical and structure engineers, many involved in military and commercial aircraft manufacturing, have warned me specifically about welding rigid bracing to the inside of my welded steel shelter (I have both kinds in my personal shelter fleet), particularly vertically, from floor-to-ceiling.
“The cylinder will flex as the surrounding granular soil takes the initial shock and live load, and any species of rigid bracing will likely punch through the hull wall or bend severely.
“This is a crude picture (above) of corrugated steel pipe buried in a mountain of dirt with a truck passing overhead. Note the lack of bracing or support beams. Two large diameter corrugated steel pipes, buried under a LOT of earth. That’s a truck up there on top. No reinforcement, no bracing, no beams. Just the cylinders.
“Obviously, the tube, by itself, is easily crushed by say, a track hoe bucket. But surround it with granular soil, and it can take a real beating.
“Pictured (left) is another highway over corrugated pipe. This will take heavy loads day and night for probably 100 years. Earth arching works splendidly. You will NEVER see a square culvert using thin steel membranes for this application. Square culverts are made from heavily reinforced concrete.
“Pictured below is a shelter being installed right next to a home in Utah. Industry specifications state we can bury this 12-gauge, 10-foot diameter hull 42 feet deep and still carry more than 200-psi overpressure. But I really don’t require more than 10 feet. One doesn’t get any more significant protection beyond that.
“Ever seen a square submarine?”
EMP, Food and Water…”The Cities Will Die”
PBN: Goodman’s character talks about population centers in a crisis.
Seyfried: “If you have a million dollar shelter, but a month’s supply of food (some advice out there for food requirements are hopelessly stupid), you won’t fare well. Consider the advice of another mentor, Bronius Cikotas, at the EMPact Conference in 2014.
“I have a 33 man-year supply of food stored. That will feed my family for about seven years. I need more, based on the advice of my people, particularly Bron.
“The last time we had a burger, in September 2014, regarding an Electromagnetic Pulse attack, he quipped, “The cities will die. Get out.”
“That’s the not-so-polite version of the video clip. Bron taught us a LOT about the character of EMP, and how to minimize its impact on alternative energy systems. Also, how our infrastructure will collapse after an EMP, and how all of these components are interconnected and mutually dependent.
“Even the water engineers in my city say exactly the same thing. ‘The city will die,’ was the answer when I asked about the city water system and EMP. No electricity, no water.
“Urban water utilities no longer use manual valves to control the movement of water in the system. It’s all digitally controlled valves, no hand wheels on them. No power, no control. The digital circuit boards on the valves will fry. The digital controls on the well pumps will fry. Nothing is hardened.
“No water, means no flush toilets. Imagine 300,000,000 people eliminating on the ground outside. It will rain. This brew will run into the streams and lakes surrounding metro areas. Unless one has a well, or a good filtration system made for using surface waters for culinary use, you’re screwed. Backpacker filters are only a stopgap, and will not work for very long.
PBN: Also in the movie, the character Howard expresses concerns about radiation poisoning.
Seyfried: “In the end, there is much more to ensuring a family’s survival than JUST the shelter, but if you don’t use sound engineering practices, use poor materials, unproven components, you won’t need to worry about the aftermath and recovery period.
“When looking at a shelter, the question is, ‘What do I really need?’ Do you need a washing machine? Shower? [I hope you have a LOT of water!!] Super-duper entertainment system? Exercise room? Reading room?
“A nuclear attack doesn’t mean months of shelter dwelling. A couple of days after the attack, the dose rate outside drops to 1/1,000th of the original dose rate one hour after fallout arrival. I can go outside for a few minutes to empty my waste, take a look around. I might get a half a rad.
“By sleeping and eating in my shelter, spending as much idle time as I can down there for a couple more weeks, I can minimize my exposure until I can leave the shelter in a month or so. Depends on where I was in relation to the target sets in my area, who attacked us, the weight of the attack, etc.”
The Importance of Training and Appropriate Education
PBN: The importance of training and a strong background. Something the movie character really didn’t have.
Seyfried: “Many bunker companies really don’t know what they’re doing, never having the benefit of learning from anyone attached to nuclear testing.
“The cool thing about working for Raytheon, E-Systems, and Moog Aircraft for 30 years: I had more than 100 engineers from every discipline, giving me FREE engineering consultation on how materials behave under various stress loads. I had chemical, electrical, structural, materials, and mechanical engineers at my fingertips. I bought a lot of lunches for them.
“In addition, Sharon Packer, co-founder and co-owner of Utah Shelter Systems, holds an MS in nuclear engineering. Her professor, Dr. Gary Sandquist, professor emeritus of mechanical engineers and an expert in reactor physics, radioactive waste management, risk assessment and quality assurance, is also quite available for any information we might need.
“A mechanical engineer friend and former colleague (currently with a major aircraft company), is more than happy to explain the strengths and weaknesses of various shelter design formats.
“As far as I know, no other outfit doodling in the shelter industry has, on staff, a nuclear engineer.
“In 1989, Sharon and I stumbled into the Doctors For Disaster Preparedness, a year after we built our first corrugated steel shelter (with the help of Joe Dillard, mechanical engineer that worked on the Atlas missile program in the 1960s).
“At the DDP, we met and immediately glommed onto a half dozen nuclear weapon physicists.
- Edwin York, who ran the photographic section of the Manhattan Project, later filmed every U.S. atmospheric test until such testing was banned, has a masters degree in nuclear engineering. He later worked on EMP hardening of the Minuteman, fusing and safety systems for warheads, and other assignments. He was the U.S. government liaison to NATO on blast protective structure design.
- Edward Teller, principle instigator of the A-bomb (along with Leo Szilard, Al Einstein, and Gene Wigner). Teller later fathered the H-bomb, or rather, the U.S. version. (The Soviets exploded theirs first!)
- Conrad Chester, nuclear weaponeer and civil defense architect for decades at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and also a specialist in bioweapons.
- Lowell Wood, protégé of Ed Teller at Los Alamos and Livermore National Laboratories, who worked on nuclear weapon designs and other phenomena like EMP for 30 years. He later chaired the Congressional Commission To Assess The Threat of EMP To The United States. Here’s his statement to the House Armed Services Committee about EMP and it’s potential impact on our military and domestic infrastructure.
“I sat through a dozen lunches and dinners with Wood, and the rest of them, batting questions around and just listening to these guys talk shop. I felt pretty stupid! But I got a lot of information about this national security affairs business, and about how to build a solid shelter. All these guys were national treasures, now long gone (except for Lowell Wood).
“I’m grateful to have spent so much time with them!”
About Paul Seyfried
Paul, and his business partner Sharon Packer, has been building shelters since 1986, and incorporated Utah Shelter Systems in 1998. They also own ANDAIR USA, Inc. and are the United States distributors of the Swiss made Luwa of Andair AG located in Andelfingen Switzerland. This company provides ventilation systems, blast valves, air filtration systems, and chemical biological protection for home, corporate, military and government facilities.
Paul is a graduate of the Missouri Military Academy and attended the New Mexico Military Institute. He attended classes at the National Emergency Training Center in Emitsburg, Pennsylvania. Paul and Sharon have lectured widely throughout Utah and the United States. They have given lectures at the Brigham Young University, and Sharon taught a National Securities Affairs class in 1993 at the University of Utah. Paul has 25 years experience working in a local aerospace firm.
Paul and Sharon are also the founders of the non-profit organization, Civil Defense Volunteers of Utah. Founded in 1987, CDVU provides information about civil defense skills to the general public. This organization, now under the direction of the current president Jay Whimpey, holds monthly meetings free of charge to the public to teach nuclear weapons effects, winter survival, first aid, shelter building techniques, and many other subjects pertaining to preparedness.