Fallout shelters

Ok, I searched the last 2 years and didn’t find a thread on this.

I was watching Blast from the Past (I know, I know, not one of the top 100 movies of all time), and I started thinking about fallout shelters.

Did many people actually put them into their backyards? Were there any set up to be self-sustaining, with the supplies for a long period of time? What happened to them after the Cold War ended?

On a similar note, are there any known cases of people staying in theirs for a period of time-be it a couple of days or weeks because they thought that The Bomb was going to be dropped?

They were generally located below public institutions such as libraries and schools. You can still find some of those old signs with the 3 triangles on older buildings. Many of them have been converted into storage space. In reality, anyone who survived in a fallout shelter would run out of supplies eventually, and would probably go crazy from boredom and isolation in the long run.

I know about those-I went to elementary school in one, actually. I’m referring more to private ones, even small ones, that people would have put into their back yards.

Most have probably been converted or removed… the small private ones that is. I know there are still many being used even today as tornado shelters. Others… well, I’ve heard stories of converting 'em to everything from guest bedrooms, kid’s play forts, to wine cellars or saunas.

As for staying in a shelter for a while, I heard a story about some WW2 soldiers- Poles, I think- that were in an underground shelter of some kind (may have just been a building’s basement) and weren’t discovered until… 1946? Might even have been '48. Yes, they had thought the War was still going on.

What I can’t recall, nor can I find in a cursory search, is when they were entombed. I believe a near or direct bomb or shell hit buried the entrance to the shelter, meaning their staying down there wasn’t exactly by choice.

I’ve always wondered A) Why didn’t they dig themselves out eventually, and B) where’d they get their air?

I doubt that my neighborhood was really typical, but of the fifteen houses on my street and block, two had fallout shelters.

One was simply a brick room built in the basement of the house (I have no idea what the guy was thinking).

The second was that of our next-door-neighbor who had his backyard excavated and a steel shelter inserted, with the door entering the basement. (He sent the word out to the neighborhood through his nasty kids that he had a shotgun and that no one was going to get in to drain their survival supplies–to which my mom commented that if the only other people who were going to survive the Bomb were the x-----'s, then she would just as soon die, anyway.)

Before we moved from the neighorhood in the mid-60s, the brick structure in the basement had been turned into a common (if large) pantry.

I have no idea what happened to the “real” bomb shelter.

I’ve always thought that were there to be a nuclear war, I think I’d rather just die in the first BOOM! I wouldn’t want to die a slow horrible death in a post-nuke world, myself.

Google search “fallout shelters” (as I answer my own question by doing what I should have done before posting.)


http://www.reporternews.com/texas/fall0113.html (this one seems to be more about those government shelters than private ones.)



Here’s a home shelter which grew, and grew, and grew.


Forty-two school busses connected and burried, and still growing. Over 10,000 square feet for A (Antelope - Adult Women), B (Bulls - Adult Men), C (Cats - (or Kittens - Young Girls), D (Deer - Teenage Girls), E (Elk - Teenage Boys) , F (Frogs - Young Boys), G (Gerbels - Very young children).

Athough it is in Canada, the fellow, Bruce Beach, is an American ex-military from Kansas who moved up our way to build his shelter. I suppose we should be grateful, or something. :wink:

Although he does not have a Ph.D., he says that a couple of Ph.D. dissertations have been done on him, and having bunked with a Ph.D., he is now a Radiological Scientific Officer who has turned down a high paying job inspecting USAF nuke sites.

At first this may seem neither here nor there, but he offers FREE NUCLEAR FALLOUT SHELTER CONSULTATION. Hey, who could turn down such an offer? Get his free advice, and you too can fill your basement with antelope.

The house my parents had while I was growing up (in Rochester, NY) had a bomb shelter dug into the back yard. It had been built in the '60s and was still around in 1989, when I last saw it. Unfortunately, nothing could be kept down there and it would be useless in the event of an attack, because it was almost continuously flooded. There was a pump that could pump the water out, but there wasn’t any sense in keeping it on constantly. It was a really cool thing to play around as a kid, though.

I’m sure a lot of the private shelters still out there are in similar condition.

I think it would be useful here to point out that there are two different structures being considered as one by most of those participating. Bomb shelters, and fallout shelters are not the same things.

The bomb shelter was developed during world war II, and plans were made to make them a part of military defense installations even as late as the early 1960s. With respect to nuclear strikes in the near vicinity such plans are useless. Hardened structures built of steel reinforced, and sheathed concrete, with double wall construction incorporating shock reducing separation materials, and blast doors were built to withstand the expected “near miss” of nuclear strikes on more strategic targets. The original plans for those structures were to reserve a second strike capability after the first exchange. The engineering was overly optimistic in most cases, given the realities of MAD strategy.

Fallout shelters were never intended to be blast proof. The expected importance of these facilities was to protect more distant survivors of first strikes at military targets from wide spread radioactive fallout, and its harmful effects. In the many scenarios envisioned by doomsday military strategists there were variable numbers of survivors of first and second strikes who could become part of the recovery effort, if they could be protected from radiation damage for seven to ten weeks. The fallout shelter was intended to provide that protection.

Radiation from fallout peaks about an hour after blast, for a minimal ground touch air burst weapon. (the most destructive placement for blast considerations) At that time it is sufficiently deadly to kill unshielded victims who are exposed for only a few minutes to an hour, although some of the deaths will take months. In cases where the enemy took no specific enhancements of fallout severity, on can expect each seven-fold increase in time to provide a tenfold decrease in radioactivity. Five thousand rads at one hour, five hundred at seven hours, fifty in two days, five in two weeks, one half in four months.

The plan was made with those parameters in mind. It ignored the very likely scenarios of delayed second strikes, cobalt salting, wide spread targeting, and strike counts in the thousands. The secondary effects of ten thousand nuclear blasts were not even imagined. It was assumed that hostilities would not continue with any but conventional forces. Blast shelters would protect military forces, civilian forces would survive in inverse proportion to their proximity to military targets. US strategic planning did not consider civilian mass causalities to be militarily useful in most cases. Russian military thinking included most transportation and industrial centers to be prime military targets along with nuclear forces.

Idiocy is not a negative consideration, in the planning of Nuclear War. The situation begins with the unimaginable, and assumes the unthinkable. Fallout shelters were Civil Defense Teddy Bears. It made people think that the Government was doing something. It was not particularly rational, but then neither is any other aspect of nuclear warfare.

The United States is the only nation that can militarily assume the absence of use of nuclear weapons without loss of strategic advantage. We don’t need them. We would have to assume a hard line on the use of nukes by anyone else. If your government drops a nuke on anyone, we destroy your government, no negotiations. We get rid of our nukes, and stop supporting the industry that makes the technology work. We enlist our allies in our position. It can work.

Tris (who happens to be a qualified fall out shelter manager.)

“People are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge.” ~ Lao Tzu ~

I’m from that era and never knew anyone who had a bomb/fallout shelter. Living in San Francisco, I think we were more concerned about earthquakes than an attack of any kind.

I understand that a few were built, although I don’t know of anyone who actually had one, personally. Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein was supposed to have had one, which should surprise no one who has read his books (especially Farnham’s Freehold).

If you want to see movies of Fallout Shelters, look up the documentary Atomic Cafe, which features a lot of period footage of them.

My high school had a fallout shelter in it, with canned water and canned biscuits and a crated generator. God knows how useful it was when I was going to school even then. I wonder how the biscuits are holding up today.

archive.org has a number of films about fallout shelters and the dangers of fallout.

I have a few authentic brochures that my mom saved for me from my dad’s 25 year stint in the military. Great stuff. We never had one, though. Since we lived about 16 miles away from KI Sawyer Air Force base (a nuclear warhead repository during the Cold War), we kind of assumed we were doomed anyway.

But why were there fallout shelters in dowtown buildings and other places that would clearly be totally destroyed by even a Hiroshima-sized bomb? Even taking for a given that they were (1) intended for smaller and fewer bombs than what we and the Soviets had in the missile era, and (2) intended to protect people miles from a blast from the fallout, not from the blast itself, a fallout shelter within a mile or two of a major target is useless and isn’t reassurance for anybody.

I recall fallout shelter signs on some public buildings in downtown Chicago until just a few years ago. Until it closed about a year or so ago, the Traffic Court building at LaSalle Street and the river had fallout shelter signs by the entrances and signs inside pointing toward the door to the basement shelter. Which couldn’t have been that deep because the building was right next to the river!

Have you ever seen any of the training films produced during the time most of those “shelters” were made? Incredibly naive. The “duck and cover” film from “The Iron Giant” was a direct parody.

Even nowadays, new houses/apartment buildings constructed in Switzerland are legally required to have a fallout shelter. My brother’s house (built in the past seven years) has one.