Book Review: High Security Shelter


Joel Skousen is perhaps THE leading author in the survival and preparedness movement when it comes to secure home construction and design. Skousen’s professional work in secure home design really shines in this book covering a single specific design point: the high security shelter.

  • General knowledge, or highly specific? Highly Specific.
  • Level of Detail? Highly detailed / very technical.
  • Readability? Good; 4 out of 5. Dense and detailed but easy to follow.
  • Immediate Usefulness? Can be used right away, in any type of home.
  • Overall Rating? 5 out of 5; a must have on any survivalist bookshelf.


The introductory material briefly introduces the preparedness mindset and the book overview, while chapter 1 lays out various disaster and emergency scenarios in which you would want to have a high security shelter somewhere in your home. None of this is particularly in-depth, as it is not the focus of the book. It is only covered with enough detail to justify the meat in the rest of the book. Why should you have a high security shelter? Skousen gives a several scenarios as reasons, and spends a paragraph or two on each general scenario (disaster, fire, EMP, financial collapse, CBN attack, etc.)

Chapter 2 is where the really good material begins by first laying out the broad building categories. Is this a new construction or a retrofit into an existing home? If a retrofit, what are some ways to lay it out in a basement, or in the end of a garage on the main floor. Diagrams are provided for various shelter floor plans showing recommended furnishings inside, which really helps you get a feel for hos the finished product will look and operate (if ever needed).

Chapter 3 provides some lengthy discussion on particular features that could be included in any version of shelter. What sort of rooms will you have (if it is big enough to sub-divide into smaller rooms)? How do you get clean water? Hot water? Air (including affordable options to prevent chemical, biological, or nuclear attack residues entering the shelter)? What are some different ways to build a secure door: official vault door or retrofitted steel door? How do you do power, especially is it is to be isolated from exterior power sources? How about communications? One of the neatest bits in this chapter is some recommendations on concealed emergency escape exits, in case the shelter is compromised and you don’t want to be cornered.

Chapter 4 contains detailed how-to information on successfully building the shelter with the features you desire and can fit in the space you are using. With a new construction, the shy’s the limit, so this section is much more focused and useful on retrofitting the shelter into an existing home. A materials list is provided for one of the sample floor plans, and costs are estimated for DIY and for professional contracting. Of particular interest is detail on how to build a cement ceiling in a retrofitted area where you cannot access to pour fresh concrete. Required tools are listed, and the chapter moves step-by-step through construction. Common construction knowledge (carpentry, masonry, etc.) is not taught so as to avoid extra book length, but the steps provided highlight the key details that even a professional would not be familiar with unless they’ve built secure rooms before (such as how to hang a vault door). All in all, it looks pretty solid as a how-to for building your own secure room in a basement or the back of a garage.

Chapter 5 is also an excellent how-to, but for a very different situation. If you live in a small, inner city home where you do not have a basement or garage or space for a more robust shelter (or simply lack the cash), this chapter details how you can up-armor and hide a room in the back of, say, a master bedroom closet. It’s not the sort of place you’ll live a year waiting for radioactive fallout to subside. But it would make a good panic room where you can store your best valuables and avoid looters and vandals if they break in to the home. The ideas in here are original and very detailed, so anyone with enough DIY skill that they frequent the local Home Depot or equivalent could build this retrofit in their current home.

The next chapter is nothing more than a large variety of working drawings. It offers various floor plans with a dimensioned front view and top view and detailed legend. It shows layouts for sleeping bunks, cabinetry, various hidden exit diagrams, hidden entrance diagrams, ventilation layouts, wiring diagrams, and plumbing diagrams. Of course, you’d need to make modifications for your own particular space. But these drawings make sure you’ve thought of everything and have a very good idea of what you need to build.

Appendix A next provides a VERY long list of resources in every category. Need a toilet for that secure shelter that is composting, chemical, or biodegradable? This appendix gives you 8 different leads. Some resources may be dated, but manufacturer websites are provided so that you can find the current product with a bit of your own searching.

Appendix B provides recommended supply lists for a 72 hour stay, a one month stay, and a one year stay in the secure shelter. These are handy so that you know what supplies you ought to be making room for in your secure shelter if you plan on being holed up in there for any period of time.


If you’re buying a retreat with a pre-existing house, odds are there is not an existing safe room and you’ll have to retrofit. This book is a crucial reference for most of us who plan to do it ourselves (for cost savings and OPSEC). Because this book can be used by anyone for almost any home, right now, I say it is a must have. Let’s say you want to get a retreat, but are stuck in the city for a year or two until you have enough money. There’s no reason not to at least have a hidden safe room for the family in case of break-in, and to protect your most valuable assets from theft. This book lets you design and build that NOW.

One review on Amazon advises customers to skip this book and go straight for Skousen’s other book, The Secure Home, because it has a chapter on High Security Shelters and so these two books cover effectively the same info, with Secure Home having a LOT in addition. I have both books on my shelf and this is not true. Yes, Secure Home has a chapter covering some of the same info. However, it is a larger book focused on those building a new home from the ground up, and so really only covers High Security Shelters from the perspective of New Construction. If you’re building your own retreat, then yes, skip straight to The Secure Home. For all the rest of us dealing with retrofit into an existing home, The High Security Shelter is a must-have.

Whether you already made it to your retreat and need to add a secure room, or you have a house in town and it will be a few years before you have a retreat, read this book by becoming a member of Strategic Relocation now. You can use the information right away no matter where you are in retreat and relocation planning. And should you ever need to use a secure room, your family will be extremely grateful for your foresight.

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