Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Preppers - Fallout Shelters - Part Two

A little history about Fallout Shelters.

When I was a kid, my grandfather didn't call them "fallout shelters," he called them "air-raid" or "bomb shelters."

They were structures built to protect the civil population as well as military personnel against enemy attacks such as bombings or air-raids. They are similar to bunkers in many regards, although they are not designed to defend against ground attack. But then again, fact is that many have been successfully used as defensive structures in such situations.

Prior to World War II, in May 1924, an Air Raid Precautions Committee was set up in the United Kingdom.

For years, little progress was made with shelters because of the apparently irreconcilable conflict between the need to send the public underground for shelter and the need to keep them above ground for protection against gas attacks.

In February 1936 the Home Secretary appointed a technical Committee on Structural Precautions against Air Attack.

By November 1937, there had only been slow progress, because of a serious lack of data on which to base any design recommendations, and the Committee proposed that the Home Office should have its own department for research into structural precautions, rather than relying on research work done by the Bombing Test Committee to support the development of bomb design and strategy.

This proposal was eventually implemented in January 1939.

Air raid shelters were built specifically to serve as protection against enemy air raids. However, pre-existing structures designed for other functions, such as Underground stations (tube or subway stations), tunnels, cellars in houses or basements in larger establishments, and railway arches, above ground, were suitable for safeguarding people during air raids.

As a result, thousands of lives were saved during World War II when England was under relentless attack from Nazi Germany.

Later during the Cold War, many countries built "fallout shelters" for high-ranking government officials and crucial military facilities, such as Project Greek Island and Cheyenne Mountain in the United States and Canada's Emergency Government Headquarters.

Plans were made, however, to use existing buildings with sturdy below-ground-level basements as makeshift fallout shelters. These buildings were usually placarded with the yellow and black trefoil sign.

The National Emergency Alarm Repeater (N.E.A.R.) program was developed in 1956 during the Cold War to supplement the existing siren warning systems and radio broadcasts in the event of a nuclear attack.

The N.E.A.R. civilian alarm device was engineered and tested but the program was not viable and went defunct about 1966.

In the U.S. in September 1961, under the direction of Steuart L. Pittman, the federal government started the Community Fallout Shelter Program. A letter from President Kennedy advising the use of fallout shelters appeared in the September 1961 issue of Life magazine.

In November 1961 in Fortune magazine, an article by Gilbert Burck appeared that outlined the plans of Nelson Rockefeller, Edward Teller, Herman Kahn, and Chet Holifield for an enormous network of concrete lined underground fallout shelters throughout the United States sufficient to shelter millions of people to serve as a refuge in case of nuclear war.

American fallout shelters in the early 1960s were sometimes funded in conjunction with funding for other federal programs, such as urban renewal projects of the Federal Housing Authority, examples being Barrington Plaza, and other development projects of Los Angeles County Civil Defense and Disaster Commissioner, Louis Lesser, and were designed for large numbers of citizens.

While interest in fallout shelters has dropped some, as the perceived threat of global nuclear war has been reduced some after the end of the Cold War, please don't think they have gone away.

Fact is, if you think bomb shelters, or air-raid shelters, are a thing of the past, you would be wrong. Terrorism and the concern about nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorist have made the threat of a horrible event all too real.

Many Swiss houses and apartment blocks still have concrete doors around 40 cm (16 in) thick that are deep in the basement. Inside these shelters, air supply systems can be found.

In many cases, these structures are the most secure part of a house, because of the shelter's thick concrete ceiling.

These shelters also provide a haven from natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, although Switzerland is rarely subject to such natural phenomena.

While it it said that in Switzerland, most residential shelters are no longer stocked with the food and water required for prolonged habitation and a large number have been converted by the owners to other uses (e.g., wine cellars, ski rooms, gyms), that might not really be the case.

Fact is, Switzerland built an extensive network of fallout shelters, not only through extra hardening of government buildings such as schools, but also through a building regulation that ensured that all residential building built after 1978 contained a nuclear shelter able to withstand a blast from a 12 megaton explosion at a distance of 700 metres.

In addition, the Swiss government maintains large communal shelters, including the Sonnenberg Tunnel, stocked with over four months of food and fuel.

The reference Nuclear War Survival Skills declared that, as of 1986, "Switzerland has the best civil defense system, one that already includes blast shelters for over 85 percent of all its citizens."

Similar projects have been undertaken in Finland, which requires all buildings with area over 600 m² to have an NBC shelter, and Norway, which requires all buildings with an area over 1000 m² to have a shelter.

Finland has over 40,000 air-raid shelters which can house 3.8 million people (71% of the population).

Private homes rarely have them, but houses over 600 m2 (6,500 sq ft) are obliged to build them.

Fire inspectors check the shelters every ten years and flaws have to be repaired or corrected as soon as possible. The law requires that inhabitants of apartment blocks can clear the shelters and put them into action in less than 72 hours. Half of the air-raid shelter has to be ready to use in two hours.

Their types of shelters are: K, which is a small shelter for a small apartment house; S1, which is the usual shelter for an apartment house; S3, which is a lightweight shelter in solid rock or heavyweight shelter of ferro-concrete; S6, are big shelters in solid rock that have to take the pressure-wave of 6 bar.

All shelters in Finland must have an electric and hand-operated air-conditioning system, that can protect from biological and chemical weapons and radioactive particles, a radiometer, dry toilets, fixed-line interface, spare exit, water tanks, and a first aid kit.

Besides Switzerland and Finland, there are other countries that have kept air-raid shelters intact, in ready condition, or are bringing them back due to global uncertainty.

The former Soviet Union and former Eastern Bloc countries often designed their underground mass-transit and subway tunnels to serve as bomb and fallout shelters in the event of an attack. And yes, from reports out of Russia, a renewed interest in public bomb and fallout shelters is taking place there right now.

Of course for obvious reasons, such as the threat from Muslim crazies and insane neighboring countries, the nation of Israel requires all buildings to have access to air raid shelters, and all new flats possess access to a Merkhav Mugan.

In Hebrew, a Merkhav Mugan means a protected space.

Popularly known as a "mamad," it is a reinforced security room required in all new buildings by Israeli law.  A Merkhav Mugan is deemed preferable to a bomb shelter when the warning time is too short for residents to reach a shelter, which may be located some distance away. It also offers protection against high impact projectiles and chemical weapons.

As of 2010, in Israel, all medical and educational facilities are prepared for CRBN attacks. As an example, each surgery room is built to take a direct missile hit.

Some are built to have closed-air systems and prepared to be gas isolated for short periods of time; in addition all must include chemical air filtering systems. The public air-raid shelters are commonly employed as game rooms so that the children will be comfortable to enter them at a time of need, and will not be frightened.

Since 1998, Singapore has required all new houses and flats have a shelter built to certain specifications.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force rationalizes building such shelters in high-rise buildings by noting that weapon effects tend to be localized, and are unlikely to cause an entire building to collapse.

Believe it or not, whether its shelters against natural disasters or fallout shelters themselves, they feature prominently in much of culture today.

For example: In 1999 the film Blast from the Past was released. It is a romantic comedy film about a nuclear physicist, his wife, and son that enter a well-equipped, spacious fallout shelter during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

They do not emerge until 35 years later, in 1997. The film shows their reaction to contemporary society.

The Fallout series of computer games depicts the remains of human civilization after an immensely destructive nuclear war; the United States of America had built underground vaults to protect itself against a nuclear attack.

Paranoia, a role-playing game, takes place in a form of fallout shelter, which was become overrun by an insane computer.

The Metro 2033 book series by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky depicts survivors' life in the subway systems below Moscow and Saint-Petersburg after a global nuclear holocaust.

Cormac McCarthy's book The Road and the accompanying movie has its main characters finding a shelter (bomb or fallout) with uneaten rations.

And yes, there is the television show Doomsday Preppers.

Doomsday Preppers is an American reality television series that airs on the National Geographic Channel.

The program profiles various survivalists, or "preppers," preparing for terrorist attacks, nuclear dirty bombs, natural disasters, and so on.

No, its not about the end of civilization. It is about surviving turmoil while civilization gets its act together during some sort of horrible event.

The series interviews people who are preparing to survive the various circumstances through which life as we know it might come to an end, including economic collapse, societal collapse, electromagnetic pulse, terrorist acts, nuclear incidents, fuel shortages, war, pandemics, geomagnetic reversal, and so on.

The interviews detail the actions that the preppers have taken, and end with an expert analysis and recommendations for improvements.

The program has been a ratings bonanza for the National Geographic Channel with a 60-percent male audience at an average age of 44.

Today, Doomsday Preppers is the network's most-watched series, and Brooklyn Bagwell, casting director for the second season, has claimed "It’s the highest-rated show” in the history of the National Geographic Channel.

One "prepper" has said of the show, "We don’t make it an obsession like some folks but we do spend a fair amount of time and money on it. ...You can’t always rely on the government or society to help you. The more people that are prepping minded, the better off we’ll all do."

With that, I can say that that is probably why I received a lot of e-mail asking me about Fallout Shelters and prepping in general.

Whether its surviving events like Hurricane Katrina, or caring for a horse that has colic, or helping lower their cholesterol, people want to know how to take care of problems on their own.

It may be to save money as in the case of not wanting to call a Vet when there are things that they can do on their own to care for horses, or it may be an extreme like having to be ready to survive a hurricane or tornado without having to rely on the government for help.

Whatever the case, people want information.

Information means self-reliance, and self-reliance means independence. And yes, independence is at the heart of the American spirit.

Story by Tom Correa

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