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Modern Bomb Shelters

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“Panic Rooms” A Sign Of The Times


By James Donahue

August 2005


People in and around South Florida are ordering costly “panic rooms” constructed in the ground under their homes, or in their yards as a place to go in the event of massive hurricanes, a terrorist attack or other unexpected horrors that might come their way.


The concept, a remnant perhaps of the old bomb shelters constructed in the early days of the Cold War, is offered by Coastal Construction Group, and if you can afford it, offers a comfortable home under the home where life can continue on under the worst of conditions, provided they don’t last too long.


The safe rooms that range anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000, give a homeowner from a bare-bones room built of concrete and steel walls with bulletproof and fire-resistant panels to finished spacious quarters complete with closed-circuit televisions, Internet connection, generators and toilets.


Angela Nystrom, founder of Survivor Depot, offers a more simplified version of protection, mostly designed to keep the homeowner safe in the event of a biological or chemical attack, or a killer pandemic.


Nystrom believes the old Homeland Security plan to seal windows and doors with duct tape wasn’t going to work. So she designed the Noah’s Ark Rainbow 36A, an inflatable room that fits within any room of a home where people can exist in a toxic-free environment for several days.


The seal inflates in minutes and keeps its occupants safe as long as they can stay within the sealed room. Of course once the food, water and other services that take care of human biological needs gets used up, including the oxygen, the seal must be broken. But you get a few precious hours or even days of protection at a modest cost of $3,100.


Back in the 1950s, after Russia acquired the atomic bomb and became the second world “super power” glaring over the Arctic Ice at the United States, there was a great fear of a nuclear war. The main deterrent was the knowledge that the bomb was so deadly that its use would probably destroy both countries within the first hours of warfare and leave the land uninhabitable for thousands of years thereafter.


But the fear was real so people all over the United States prepared for it by building bomb shelters under their homes. Those shelters are still there. They were usually entered through a firm iron or concrete door that sealed down once the occupant got inside. They were stocked, at least in those years, with bottled water, canned foods and equipment to meet basic human needs for three days or longer in the event of a nuclear attack. The idea was to try to survive the fallout from a nearby attack if you were lucky enough not to be directly under the bomb when it fell.


Many sturdy public buildings also were designated as fallout shelters in those years. They were marked by signs that designated them as a shelter in the event of an attack. The shelters were usually located in the basement or some other well protected area that was estimated to be sturdy enough to withstand the force of an atomic blast from a certain distance.


I also remember that schools held drills in those years, teaching children how to lie on the floor under their desks with their hands over their heads if there was a bright flash from a nearby atomic explosion. The idea was to protect the children from flying glass and debris by the time the force of the blast reached the building.


Fortunately, the cold war remained exactly that. While we came close at times, there never was a nuclear war between Russia and the United States and after a while, the insanity of even thinking about such a war caused the leaders of both nations to cool their jets and start talking about disarmament.


But knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons has spread now. Many other nations of the world have this terrible weapon, including China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and the United Kingdom. Even some rogue countries like North Korea and Iran are in the process of building nuclear armaments. Thus the fear of a world nuclear war is greater today than ever before.


What is worse, there is a new element in the mix now that did not exist back in the Cold War years. There is a growing threat of world terrorism as Moslems and Christians rebuild old tensions that once led to open warfare throughout Europe and the Middle East during the Crusades. Israel and the Palestinians are locked in daily conflict over how to share the small territory of land that both claim as their own on the east end of the Mediterranean. And all nations of the world, especially China, Russia, India and the Untied States, are scrambling for control of the declining oil reserves of the world, mostly located in the Middle East. Other diminishing resources like potable water, wood and mineral deposits are also in contention.


We are living in extremely dangerous times because the world is overpopulated, polluted and on the edge of a war that could lead to a quick extinction of all life on the planet.


It is small wonder that “panic rooms” are in vogue in Florida. Don’t be surprised if the idea catches on and the people start investing in them all over the place. In fact, if they haven’t already thought of it, construction companies might do well to start designing and selling them.


While they might offer the homeowner a small sense of extra security, such panic rooms will do nothing to save us in the long run. The plagues, the wars and the loss of food and water lying in our future will not be something that goes away in a day or two. Eventually the people hiding in their panic rooms will have to come out.


That is when reality will get them. They will just be putting off the inevitable for a few days longer.

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