Fallout Shelters


TACDA received the following email from a concerned citizen:


Due to heightened world tensions I recently contacted Emergency Services here in Lane County Oregon to see if we had any public fallout shelters near my town of Florence. I was surprised to discover the public shelter program no longer exists. They didn’t even know if there were any suitable buildings that could be used in a pinch. Having been raised in the 60’s I remember those yellow shelter signs.

My question is are you aware of any members of congress or public officials who would support starting a shelter program again. So far when I have brought this up officials either don’t want to talk about it, make me feel like some kind of nut or pretend interest. My local Senator Merkly sits on the FEMA committee and I brought this up with him but interest is low. FEMA wouldn’t even answer a letter. So I’m searching for officials who might be pro shelter programs to lend support or at least get some discussion going. Any help appreciated.


Dave P.

Here is our response: (written by Paul Seyfried and Sharon Packer –http://www.utahsheltersystems.com/)

Dear Dave,

We have found it to be almost impossible to find government officials who would be interested in revamping our national shelter program. One city, Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama, under the direction of Kirk Paradise (unfortunately now deceased), revitalized its fallout shelter program in 2006. It was an amazing effort. I have attached a report he made for the Physicians for Civil Defense. (Kirk’s attachment will follow.) I’m not sure if they have kept this program current or not. He served on our TACDA Board of Directors for several years before his death in May of 2012.

TACDA exists for the education and enlightenment of the public to national threats and mitigation efforts. We are convinced that until the conversion of the general public to civil defense brings a public outcry, there will not be officials who will support the funding of such a program.  It is our hope, that folks like you will spread the civil defense message and help in the accomplishment of that goal. Most government officials want to please their constituents, and they will only support popular efforts that will help them to retain their office.

TACDA encourages the building of private shelters, but does not (and cannot) recommend one company over another. Sheltering in place appears to be the most practical option. A fallout shelter can quite easily be incorporated into a basement room. Stand alone underground shelters, however, would be required for full NBC protection (fallout, blast, thermal chemcal/biological and EMP effects).  Public shelters in the U.S. were basically fallout shelters, only, with minimal blast protection. The U.S. never did advocate shelters built to the Swiss standard.

President Kennedy was a strong advocate of a national shelter program, much like Switzerland’s shelter program is today. His shelter program was modeled after the Swiss system. He had planned to unveil the program during his trip to Dallas. He was distracted by a murder’s bullet. LBJ cancelled our civil defense shelter program, which would have built blast-hardened shelters in the nation’s densely populated cities. Less rigorous fallout shelters would have been constructed for rural areas. Later, an effort was made by the U.S. Government to survey large buildings with multiple stories employing masonry construction to find areas in them that would provide a minimum level of protection that would give occupants a fighting chance of surviving the fallout effects from a nuclear attack. A national grain reserve was established in rural areas that would provide enough food to feed the population for seven years (80% of grain is fed to meat-producing animals in peace time, but most of these would be slaughtered immediately, retaining only breading stock to replenish herds during recovery). This frees up millions of tons of grain for human use. We no longer maintain such a reserve, while Russia still maintains a four-year supply. We are now on a Just-In-Time system.

The established protection criteria was a protection factor of 40 (PF-40). Formulas for determining this level were devised, and survey teams went out and identified hospitals, municipal buildings, high rises, etc that had the right features. The idea was to house as many Americans as possible in hastily organized shelters, stocking them with water, crude rations, and chemical toilets. The critical need for shelter occurs in the first two to three days, assuming the attack commencement and conclusion occurs within a few hours. In the early years of the 1960s, most weapons would be delivered via aircraft…so we had maybe 14 to 20 hours of preparations before an attack would arrive. Evacuation plans were developed to move as many people as possible outside of large cities. Counterforce weapons and strategies were not developed yet, so cities were assumed to be the primary targets, other than obvious enemy airfields. The age of the ICBM changed all of that. Americans today would have no warning….the concept of a suit on TV telling Americans that an attack was imminent is fantasy. Flight time of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, fired from 200 miles offshore at Washington DC, programmed for a depressed flight trajectory, would arrive on target in just a few minutes. It is highly unlikely that the U.S. could detect the launch, plot its intended target, pick up the phones and warn the White House Situation Room, and get the POTUS to the bunker entrance in time. The National Command Authority would likely be wiped out, with any surviving members unable to determine who was in charge (communications would be vastly suppressed from the concurrent EMP laydown) before most of the U.S. nuclear deterrent was reduced to smoking rubble. The power drop from an EMP would be the only warning the general public would perceive, and in place sheltering the only chance of survival when living in close proximity{F to primary targets (targets with retaliatory capability).

[Russia will have 80% of it’s strategic nuclear missile force on road and rail-mobile launch vehicles by 2015. Its remaining fixed silos are cold-launch systems, able to be re-loaded in a few hours with fresh missiles. SS-18 silos are super-hardened, and are difficult to neutralize. Arms treaties do not address reloads…only launch silos. Meanwhile, our land-based nuclear deterrent is the old Minute Man system, initially deployed in 1965. They are still in their original silos, addresses unchanged. We can tell from the laydown splashes of Russian missile tests off the Kamchatcka peninsula, which missile field they are rehearsing on. But I digress.]

The old fallout shelters had NO ventilation systems, no sanitation systems, other than the 15-gallon steel drum toilet kits stocked there. No blast doors, or blast valves on ventilation pipes to protect occupants from direct weapons effects (heat, blast, debris, fire). This joke of a system gave ammunition to the anti-civil defense lobby. Indeed, these “shelters” were a joke. A PF-40 is BARELY adequate protection, assuming your area was not heavily hit by fallout. Virtually everyone inside would probably get sick…but most would not die. Of course, the president and other officials were (and are) to be housed in hardened bunkers, designed for high over pressures. We know how to protect people from WMD, we just don’t do it for the taxpayer.

Sharon Packer (TACDA Board Member), Paul Seyfried (TACDA Advisory Committee)

Document by Kirk Paradise, Plans Coordinator:

Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama, is revitalizing its Fallout Shelter Program. The program consists of three parts: shelters; plans and training and monitoring equipment. Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency has identified Fallout Shelters for both the general public and selected hospitals and clinics under the DHS Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) program.

The program requires the 124 MMRS cities in the nation to prepare against the effects of a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) and a postulated 10 kiloton detonation of either an Improvised Nuclear Device or a nuclear warhead. Preparedness levels are based on population; in the case of Huntsville, it is 7,500 fatalities, 25,000 casualties and 100,000 displaced persons. The medical community can manage the fatalities and casualties but a sheltering program for displaced persons is beyond the scope of hospitals and clinics. Pacing displaced persons in Red Cross-type shelters with no or unknown radiation protection from radiation would leave them vulnerable to high level radiation exposures.

Starting in 2005, Huntsville devised and followed a two-prong solution. First, five MMRS medical facilities were identified which were judged to afford protection from radiation. At the same time, based on fallout shelter survey records kept locally on file since the 1960s and federal records which have not been updated since 1992, over 100 previously surveyed public shelters were identified for the general public. Over time, many of the previously surveyed shelters have been razed, burned or otherwise no longer exist. To counter this loss, thirty buildings in the county also judged to afford protection from radiation were identified and added to the list of the five MMRS medical facilities. Permission to survey all these facilities was sought and obtained and a Civil Engineer was contracted to perform the surveys. The engineer used FEMA formulas and procedures to calculate the “Fallout Protection Factor” in the different areas of each building. Once surveyed, the thirty public Fallout Shelters were added to the existing list; the list totals about 150 usable shelters with an aggregate capacity of about 300,000 persons. Madison County’s population is just shy of 300,000 persons. Permission has been sought from the previously surveyed buildings and about 60% have granted permission so far.

The life-savings qualities of a Fallout Shelter are useless unless people know how to use them. For this purpose, the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency developed a Fallout Shelter Guide, a brief plan with checklists to enable a Shelter Manager to quickly select and train a Shelter Management Team to accommodate the needs of the shelter population and enable them to survive in the shelter until they are either rescued/evacuated or it is safe to emerge. Two Fallout Shelter Management Courses were developed and presented. One was for the MMRS medical facilities and was presented in August, 2006. The second was for Public Fallout Shelters. Four sessions of the 8-hour course were held in January, 2007. All MMRS medical facilities and about half the public shelters now have trained shelter staff. In addition, personnel from the Army’s Redstone Arsenal (adjoins Huntsville in Madison County) attended the training. The Arsenal and its major tenant, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, each have several dozen previously surveyed Fallout Shelters with an aggregate capacity of 60,000+ persons. None of the shelters are stocked with any survival supplies or equipment other than what might happen to be there. If activated, the public will be instructed to bring essential supplies: at least one gallon of water per person; personal needs; clothing; bedding and food for an expected shelter stay of perhaps a few days up to two weeks. Purposeful leadership is essential in shelters to organize and motivate people perhaps entering a shelter bringing nothing but a few supplies but lots of anxiety and fear into a community capable of group survival.

To provide a radiological monitoring capacity for all the shelters, the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency stores a supply of the Civil Defense Radiological Monitoring kits from the 1960s. These kits are still maintained and calibrated by the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. Alabama is one of a few states that has an active maintenance and calibration program for its radiological monitoring instruments. For the MMRS Medical facilities, new, specialized equipment is being procured.

The Fallout Shelter program in Huntsville, which is currently the only jurisdiction in the United States known to be revitalizing its program, will allow MMRS medical facilities to continue medial operations in a high radiation environment and provides for the protection of the general public. The MMRS medical facilities can move operations and patients/staff/families to areas that offer excellent quality protection from high level radiation. The public can go to public Fallout Shelters that will greatly reduce their exposures and where their needs can be met. With protection from radiation and purposeful leadership, people in both types of shelters would emerge as survivors, ready to be part of a national recovery and not be left as just helpless victims of a terror attack. Efforts will continue to gain permission from owners of additional shelters and to schedule more training courses in the future.

Copyright 1991-2006 Physicians for Civil Defense. All Rights Reserved



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