Friday, December 03, 2010

Prepare: Fallout Shelters, Washington DC, 1961

I stumbled upon this interesting article from the Washington Post from late last month about a guy with an interesting hobby - he catalogues the locations of old fallout shelters in the Washington DC area.

The article is here.

During the early 1960's, DC had the largest number of fallout shelters by population in the United States. Knowing that the nation's capital would be target number one in a nuclear exchange, the federal government launched a Community Shelter plan which located deep basements in schools, hospitals and churches and stocked them with emergency supplies.

As we know, most of those shelters were closed off and emptied of supplies by the 1980's as FEMA took over the role of Civil Defense and the powers that be decided it was better for the population to be unprepared than not. Regardless...

This collector of fallout and civil defense information is working hard to get the old fallout signs, not the buildings, protected as historical landmarks. I think it is a neat way to remind all about the importance of being prepared and a simple and cost effective plan by the government which actually would have made a difference if ever needed.

The author has to toss in a frustrating line in the article which I will quote:

Of course, the irony is that the District's fallout shelters probably wouldn't have done much good. But they would have let us die together.

This is annoying because the Community Shelter Program was designed to limit casualties and was based upon research and knowledge at the time. The very same article above notes that the designers of the US shelter program estimated that community shelters could save millions of lives. But of course that flies in the face of the popular, but incorrect idea that "we will all die in the event of any nuclear exchange".

Many would be spared the horrors of radioactive fallout with a simple shelter. And now, with the threat of dirty bombs in the hands of terrorists, a fallout shelter plan is what is needed now more than ever in the event of such a type of attack.

The fellow researching fallout shelters and the subject of the article believes he can still find a completely stocked fallout shelter (with expired supplies of course) in pristine condition. They turn up from time to time, but in most cases the supplies are in pretty bad shape. Of course, he should take a look at the website The Civil Defense Museum and contact someone who knows something about the whole matter.

One more note. I wish I could find more about the scenario called Operation Alert 1961 mentioned in the article. Apparently, this report described a number of scenarios which led to the creation of the Community Shelter program, Conelrad and other nuclear war preparedness plans.

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