October 19, 2010
By Angie Sullivan
Learn how to build your own shelter and you’ll feel confident that even in the most uncomfortable of circumstances, you’ll have the knowledge to do some “home-making”!
Shelter is a high priority when preparing for an emergency. After food and water, shelter is next on the list. Most of us don’t think about shelter because we assume that shelter will always be available for us, whether at our own homes or within our community. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes disasters leave people stranded in harsh weather or amidst destroyed buildings and they are desperately in need of shelter to protect them.
The easiest way to know you’ll always have shelter and protection from the elements is to carry it with you. A lightweight tent or tube tent that you can keep in your car or emergency kit is ideal. Your car can also be an excellent shelter, especially in cooler weather. Be sure to leave the windows open when the temperature is over 65 degrees to avoid heat exhaustion.
Though having a shelter on hand is recommended, there are times that you may need to create your own. There are several different types of shelters you can build. If you do not have any materials with which to construct a shelter, you need to use any cover or protection available to you, such as a cliff overhang, or a cave to shield you from wind or rain. If you are in a completely open area, sit with your back to the wind and put as much of your equipment behind you as possible to create a windbreaker for you.
You can use any size of tree branches to give you shelter from the wind. Begin by tying a branch to the base of another branch where it forks off from the trunk. Cover with additional branches and twigs. Pine and fir trees are particularly effective because of their dense leaves, which offer more protection. Also, creating a shallow depression in the ground can give you shelter, especially if you are able to cover the top with branches, logs, or sticks. This method is better in warm, dry climates as it will not deflect rain from entering the shelter.
Making a lean-to shelter is as simple as propping logs, branches, and other material against a mountainside, large rock, or fallen log. If you have rope on hand, you will be able to lash the materials together, and a tarp or even a poncho on top of the structure will add an extra layer of protection. This method can also be used to make a teepee shaped shelter. Begin by lashing longer branches together at the top, and then cover with denser material.
If you are stranded in the snow, you can use the snow as the basis for your shelter. Digging out a depression and forming walls that angle in will provide a layer of insulation. Be sure to have a hole in the top to provide ventilation, especially if you will be making a fire to keep warm.
Shelter is something many of us take for granted. Should the time come that you find yourself needing protection from the elements, you will be grateful for this knowledge. Take a few minutes from your regular homemaking to think about emergency shelters and you’ll find yourself able to do some real “home-making”!