Fallout shelter

fallout shelter is an enclosed space specially designed to protect occupants from radioactive debris or fallout resulting from a nuclear explosion . Many such shelters were constructed as civil warnings during the Cold War .

During a nuclear explosion, the vapor is exposed to neutrons from the explosion, absorbs them, and becomes radioactive . When this material condenses into the rain, it forms dust and light water that resembles ground pumice . The fallout emits alpha and beta particles , as well as gamma rays .

Much of this highly radioactive material falls to earth, becoming a significant hazard . A fallout shelter is designed to allow its occupants to minimize exposure to harmful effects until decayed to a safer level.


During the Cold War , the United States and Canada’s Emergency Government Headquarters , Project Greek Island and Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker in the United States and Canada . Plans have been made, however, to use existing buildings as well as groundwater basement levels and makeshift fallout shelters. These buildings were placarded with the orange-yellow and black trefoil designed by United States Army Corps of Engineers, director of administrative logistics support Robert W. Blakeley in 1961. [1]

The National Emergency Alarm Repeater (NEAR) program was developed in the United States 1956 during the Cold War to supplement the existing warning systems and radio broadcasts in the event of a nuclear attack . The NEAR was commissioned and tested in 1967. [2] In the US in September 1961, under the leadership of Steuart L. Pittman , the federal government started the Fallout Shelter Community. [3] [4] A letter from President Kennedy advising the use of fallout shelters appeared in the September 1961 issue of Lifemagazine. [5]

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 underground firefighters throughout the United States. people to serve as a refuge in case of nuclear war . [6]

Similar projects have been undertaken in Finland , which requires 600m² to have an NBC shelter, and Norway , which requires 1000 m² to have a shelter. [7]

The former Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries often designed their underground mass-transit and subway tunnels to serve as bombs and fallout shelters in the event of an attack.

Germany has protected shelters for 3% of its population, Austria for 30%, Finland for 70%, Sweden for 81% and Switzerland for 114%. [8]


The Sonnenberg Tunnel , in Switzerland , Was the World’s Largest civilian nuclear fallout shelter, designed to protect 20,000 Civilians in the eventuality of war or disaster ( civil defense function abandoned in 2006). [8] [9]

Switzerland built an extensive network of fallout shelters, not only through extra-hardening of government buildings such as schools, but also through a building of regulation of nuclear shelters in residential buildings since the 1960s (the first legal basis of this sense dates from 4 October 1963) . [9] Later, the law ensured that all residential buildings built after 1978 contained a nuclear shelter with a blast from a 12 megaton explosion at a distance of 700 meters. [10] The Federal Law on the Protection of the Population and Civil Protection still requires that every inhabitant should have a place in a shelter close to where they live. [8]

The Swiss authorities maintained large communal shelters (such as the Sonnenberg Tunnel until 2006). [10] The reference Nuclear War Survival Skills declared, as of 1986, “Switzerland has the best civil defense system, one that already includes blast shelters for over 85 percent of all its citizens.” [11] As of 2006, there were 300,000 shelters built in private homes, institutions and hospitals, and more than 5,100 public shelters for a total of 8.6 million beds, a level of coverage equal to 114% of the population. [8]

In Switzerland, they are most often used for wine and wine (eg, wine cellars , ski rooms, gyms ). [10] But the owner still has the obligation to ensure the maintenance of the shelter. [8]

Details of shelter construction


A basic fallout shelter consists of shields that reduce gamma ray exposure by a factor of 1000. The required shielding can be accomplished with the ability to reduce gamma radiation. Shields that reduce gamma ray intensity by 50% (1/2) include 1 cm (0.4 inch) of lead, 6 cm (2.4 inches) of concrete, 9 cm (3.6 inches) of packed earth or 150 m (500 ft) of air. When multiple thicknesses are built, the shielding multiplies. Thus, a practical fallout is reduced to reduced weight, reducing gamma rays by approximately 1024 times (2 10 ). [12]

Usually, an expedient purpose-built fallout shelter is a trench; with a strong roof buried by 1 m (3 ft) of earth. The two ends of the trench have ramps or entrances at right angles to the trench, so that they can not enter. To make the overburden waterproof (in case of rain), a plastic sheet may be buried in the air and held down with rocks or bricks. [13]

Blast doors are designed to absorb the shock wave of a nuclear blast, bending and returning to their original shape. [14]

Climate control

Dry earth is a reasonably good insulator, and over several weeks of habitation, a shelter will become dangerously hot. [15] The simplest form of effective ventilation is a wide, heavy frame with which the door is swinging. The flaps open in one direction and close in the other, pumping air. (This is a Kearny Air Pump , or KAP, named after the inventor, Cresson Kearny )

Unfiltered air is safe, since the most dangerous fallout has the consistency of sand or finely ground pumice. [15] Such large particles are not easily ingested in the tissues of the body, so extensive filters are not required. Any exposure to fine dust is far less hazardous than exposure to the fallout outside the shelter. Dust fine enough to pass through the shelter. [15] Some shelters, however, incorporate NBC- filters for additional protection.


Effective public shelters can be the middle floors of some tall buildings or parking structures, or below ground level in most buildings with more than 10 floors. The thickness of the upper floors must form an effective shield, and the windows of the sheltered area must not view fallout-covered ground that is closer than 1.5 km (1 mi). One of Switzerland’s solutions is to use road tunnels passing through the mountains, with some of these shelters being able to protect tens of thousands.[16]

Fallout shelters are not always underground. Above ground buildings with walls and roofs dense enough to afford a meaningful protection factor can be used as a fallout shelter.[17]


A battery-powered radio may be helpful to get reports of fallout patterns and clearance. However, radio and other electronic equipment may be disabled by electromagnetic pulse. For example, even at the height of the cold war, EMP protection had been completed for only 125 of the approximately 2,771 radio stations in the United States Emergency Broadcast System. Also, only 110 of 3,000 existing Emergency Operating Centers had been protected against EMP effects.[18] The Emergency Broadcast System has since been supplanted in the United States by the Emergency Alert System.

The reference Nuclear War Survival Skills includes the following supplies in a list of “Minimum Pre-Crisis Preparations”: one or more shovels, a pick, a bow-saw with an extra blade, a hammer, and 4-mil polyethylene film (also any necessary nails, wire, etc.); a homemade shelter-ventilating pump (a KAP); large containers for water; a plastic bottle of sodium hypochlorite bleach; one or two KFMs and the knowledge to operate them; at least a 2-week supply of compact, nonperishable food; an efficient portable stove; wooden matches in a waterproof container; essential containers and utensils for storing, transporting, and cooking food; a hose-vented 5-gallon can, with heavy plastic bags for liners, for use as a toilet; tampons; insect screen and fly bait; any special medications needed by family members; pure potassium iodide, a 2-oz bottle, and a medicine dropper; a first-aid kit and a tube of antibiotic ointment; long-burning candles (with small wicks) sufficient for at least 14 nights; an oil lamp; a flashlight and extra batteries; and a transistor radio with extra batteries and a metal box to protect it from electromagnetic pulse.[19]

Inhabitants should have water on hand, 1-2 gallons per person per day. Water stored in bulk containers requires less space than water stored in smaller bottles.[20]

Kearny fallout meter

Commercially made Geiger counters are expensive and require frequent calibration. It is possible to construct an electrometer-type radiation meter called the Kearny fallout meter , which does not require batteries or professional calibration, from properly-scaled plans with just a coffee can or pail, gypsum board, monofilament fishing line , and aluminum foil. [21] maps are freely available in the public domain in the reference Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson Kearny . [22]


Inhabitants should plan to remain sheltered for at least two weeks (see Swiss Civil Defense guidelines (which was once part of Swiss Zivilschutz)), to four hours a day at three weeks. The normal work is to sweep or wash down to the trenches to decontaminate the area. They should sleep in a shelter for several months. Evacuation at three weeks is recommended by official authorities. quote needed ]

If available, may be potassium iodide at the rate of 130 mg / day per adult (65 mg / day per child) as an additional measure to protect the thyroid gland from the uptake of dangerous radioactive iodine waste. [23]

Different types of radiation by fallout

Alpha (α)

In the vast majority of accidents, and in all atomic bomb blasts, the threat of beta and gamma emitters is greater than that of the alpha emitters in the fallout. Alpha particles are identical to a helium-4 nucleus (two protons and two neutrons), and more than 5% of the speed of light. Alpha particles have little penetrating power; most can not penetrate through the skin. Avoiding direct exposure with fallout particles will prevent injury from alpha radiation. [25]

Beta (β)

Beta radiation consists of particles (high-speed electrons) given off by some fallout. Most beta particles can not Penetrate more than about 10 feet (3 meters) of air or about 1 / 8 inch (3 millimeters) of water, wood, or human body tissue; gold foil of foil. Avoiding direct exposure with fallout particles will prevent more injuries from beta radiation. [26]

The primary hazards associated with beta radiation are in the process of becoming more and more important. Beta burns can result from contact with highly radioactive particles on bare skin; can be used to provide significant shielding. [26]

Gamma (γ)

Gamma radiation penetrates further by means of alpha or beta radiation. Most of the design of a typical fallout shelter is intended to protect against gamma rays . Gamma rays are more important than gamma rays. Thus, the lead is only modestly better than the same, as in the case of aluminum, concrete, water or soil.

Some gamma radiation from fallout will penetrate even the best shelters. However, the radiation dose received while inside a shelter can be significantly reduced with proper shielding. Ten halving thicknesses of a material can Given Reduce gamma exposure to less than 1 / 1000 of unshielded exposure. [27]

Weapons versus nuclear accident fallout

The bulk of the radioactivity in nuclear fallout is more long-lived than that in weapons fallout . A good table of the nuclides , such as that provided by the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute , includes the fission yields of the different nuclides. From this data it is feasible to calculate the isotopic mixture in the fallout (due to fission products in bomb fallout). quote needed ]

Other matters and simple improvements

While a person may not have a purpose-made shelter, it may be thought of to be of the highest quality .

Measures to lower the beta dose

The main threat of beta radiation exposure comes from hot particles in contact with or close to the skin of a person. Also, swallowed or inhaled hot particles could cause beta burns . As it is important to avoid bringing hot particles into the shelter, one option is to remove one’s outer clothing, or another decontamination procedures , on entry. Fallout particles will be radioactive enough to cause beta burns within a few days following a nuclear explosion. The danger of gamma radiation will persist with the threat of beta burns in areas with heavy fallout exposure. [28]

Measures to lower the gamma dose rate

The gamma dose rate due to the contamination brought to the shelter of the victim (by wartime standards) compared to gamma radiation that penetrates through the walls of the shelter. [28] The following measures can be taken to reduce the amount of gamma radiation entering the shelter:

  • Roofs and gutters can be cleaned up in the house.
  • The top inch of soil in the area can be removed or mixed with the subsoil . This reduces the dose rate to the top of the list before they can radiate anything above.
  • Nearby roads can be rinsed and washed down to remove dust and debris; the fallout would be in the sewers and gutters for easier disposal. In Kiev after the Chernobyl accident a program of road washing was used to control the spread of radioactivity.
  • Windows can be bricked up, or the sill raised to the wall in the shield.
  • Gaps in the shielding can be blocked using containers of water. While water has a much lower density than that of lead, it is still able to shield some gamma rays.
  • Earth (or other dense material) can be heaped up against the exposed walls of the building; This forces the gamma rays to pass through a layer of shielding before entering the house.
  • Nearby trees can be removed to reduce the burden of fallout. It has been suggested by the US government that this fallout should not be neglected. [29]

Fallout shelters in popular culture

 Fallout shelters feature prominently in the Robert A. Heinlein novel Farnham’s Freehold (Heinlein built in a fairly extensive shelter in Colorado Springs in 1963), [30] Pulling Through by Dean Ing , A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller and Earth by David Brin .

The Twilight Zone Episode ” The Shelter “, from a Rod Serling script, deals with the consequences of actually using a shelter. Another episode of the series called ” One More Pallbearer ” featured a fallout shelter owned by millionaire. The 1985 adaptation of the series Had the episode ” Shelter Skelter ” that featured a fallout shelter.

In the Only Fools and Horses episode ” The Russians are Coming “, Derek Trotter has a lead in the fallout of the Soviet Union (which were still active during the episode’s creation).

In 1999 the film Blast from the Past was released. It’s a romantic comedy film about a nuclear physicist , his wife, and his well-equipped, 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-year global immensely destructive nuclear war; the United States of America HAD built underground vaults That Were advertised to protect the population has contre nuclear attack, aim Almost all of Them Were in fact Meant to lure subjects for long-term human experimentation .

Fallout Shelter is a free-to-play mobile video game simulation developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Part of the Fallout series, it was released for iOS devices on June 14, 2015, and was released for Android devices on August, 13 2015.

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

Dmitry Glukhovsky The Metro 2033 book series by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky survivors’ life in the subway systems below Moscow and Saint Petersburg after a nuclear exchange between the Russian Federation and the United States of America.

Fallout shelters are featured on Doomsday Preppers . [31]

The Silo series of novellas by Hugh Howey is an extensive feature of the early fallout.

See also

  • Abo Elementary School
  • Ark Two Shelter
  • Blast shelter
  • Bomb shelter
  • Bunker
  • Bruce D. Clayton , author of Fallout Survival and Life After Doomsday
  • Collective protection
  • Command center
  • Continuity of government
  • The Greenbrier
  • Vivos (underground shelter)

Nation specific:

  • Central Government War Headquarters , The UKs Gov. War Headquarters at Corsham, Wiltshire.
  • Diefenbunker
  • HANDEL , UK’s national attack warning system


  • Fission product
  • Retreat (survivalism)
  • Sonnenberg Tunnel
  • Survivalism


  • Fallout Protection
  • Survival Under Atomic Attack
  • Nuclear War Survival Skills

Notes and references

  1. Jump up^ McFadden, Robert D. “Robert Blakeley, Whose Fallout Shelter Sign Symbolized the Cold War, Dies at 95,” The New York Times , Friday, October 27, 2017.
  2. Jump up^ “Episode 709, Story 3: NEAR Device” (transcript) . pbs.com . Oregon Public Broadcasting. 2009. p. 11 . Retrieved October 9, 2014 .
  3. Jump up^ “Civil Defense Museum-Community Shelter Tours Main Page” . civildefensemuseum.com . Retrieved September 14, 2008 .
  4. Jump up^ “FALLOUT FEVER: Civil Defense shelters dotted area cities during the Cold War – My Web Times” . mywebtimes.com . Retrieved September 14,2008 .
  5. Jump up^ DOE.gov
  6. Jump up^ FortuneMagazine November 1961 Pages 112-115 et al
  7. Jump up^ “FOR 1995-03-15 nr 254: Forskrift om tilfluktsrom” . Lovdata.no . Retrieved August 15, 2012 .
  8. ^ Jump up to:e (in French) Daniele Mariani, “To everyone his bunker” , Swissinfo, 23 October 2009 (page visited on 5 August 2015).
  9. ^ Jump up to:b (in French) Catherine Frammery, “In the bowels of the Sonnenberg, monstrous witness of the Cold War” , Time , Monday 15 August 2016 (page is visited 15 August 2015).
  10. ^ Jump up to:c Ball, Deborah (June 25, 2011). “Swiss Renew Push for Bomb Shelters” . The Wall Street Journal . Retrieved December 18, 2012 .
  11. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. pp. 6-10. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  12. Jump up^ “Halving-thickness for various materials” . “The Compass DeRose Guide to Emergency Preparedness – Hardened Shelters”.
  13. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. pp. 37-45. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  14. Jump up^ “Secret US Bunkers”. Lost Worlds . Episode 18. August 29, 2007. The History Channel.
  15. ^ Jump up to:c Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. pp. 51-56. ISBN  0-942487-01-X.
  16. Jump up^ Foulkes, Imogen (February 10, 2007). “Swiss still braced for nuclear war” . BBC News, Switzerland . Retrieved August 15, 2012 .
  17. Jump up^ Monteyne, David. Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2011. Print.
  18. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. p. 24. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  19. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. pp. 133-134. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  20. Jump up^ Hammes, JA (1966). Fallout shelter survival research . pp. 154-159.
  21. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1978). The KFM, A Homemade Yet Accurate and Dependable Fallout Meter (PDF) . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 25, 2004.
  22. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. pp. 95-100. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  23. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. pp. 111-117. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  24. ^ Jump up to:c Note That Was this image drawn using data from the OECD postponement and the second edition of The Radiochemical Manual
  25. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. p. 45. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  26. ^ Jump up to:b Kearny, Cresson H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. p. 44. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  27. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. pp. 11-20. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  28. ^ Jump up to:b Kearny, Cresson H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. p. 131. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  29. Jump up^ Kearny, Watercress H (1986). Nuclear War Survival Skills . Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. p. 39. ISBN  0-942487-01-X .
  30. Jump up^ site: Robert A. Heinlein – Archives – PM 6/52 Article Archived2010-03-07 atWebCite
  31. Jump Up^ Shelter – Doomsday Preppers Article – National Geographic Channel