During the early days of the cold war between
the U.S. and The Soviet Union in the late 1940's and early 1950's,
the term "mutually assured destruction" was coined.
It meant in essence that both sides had enough
nuclear weapons to wipe each other out and one of two things
was going to happen.
Either there would be no nuclear war because there could not
be a winning side, or someone's finger would slip and "push
the button," thereby setting off worldwide destruction.
In response to this, the U.S. developed an audible air raid
system in cities and communities and implemented the development
of "fallout shelters" which would supposedly provide
protection for people in case of a nuclear attack. After the
end of the cold war in the early 1990's, fallout shelters fell
out of the public consciousness. But what happened to them?
Some Fallout Shelters Still Invite You In For
While some fallout shelters were personal and
private constructed in home basements or in people's back yards,
many were designated as public fallout shelters by the U.S.
Department of Civil Defense. They chose where the public fallout
shelters were going to be and how they were going to be managed.
For obvious reasons many public fallout shelters were in the
basements of office buildings and schools, but some were designated
in places like gas stations and other small businesses.
During 1992 and 1993, many fallout shelters were
dismantled or removed after the end of the cold war. In the
case of many shelters, the spaces they occupied were returned
to what they were prior to takeover by the U.S. Government:
Dark, empty basement spaces and storage areas.
But some former fallout shelters may still be
just as they were in the 1950's and 1960's. As of just a few
years ago, one fallout shelter that was located in the basement
of an auto parts store in Pennsylvania was still stocked with
the original survival supplies that the U.S. Civil Defense Department
filled it with years ago.
For unknown reasons, the son of the
original owner (and now current owner) of the store was
reluctant to clear out the survival supplies, which as
of 2002, were still there gathering dust and cobwebs.
One fallout shelter in Switzerland was originally
converted into an interactive art exhibit and a "zero star
hotel" (zero stars giving a reference to ground zero in
case of an attack). Named the Null Stern Hotel, the former fallout
shelter in Teufen, Switzerland was so popular as a hotel and
museum that the location operated for a full year as a hotel
before being turned permanently into a museum. The founders
of The Null Stern (which means zero star) have been working
to expand their original idea to other locations in Europe where
there are former fallout shelters.
Now in today's world of renewed threats of bio-terrorism,
rogue nations developing nuclear weapons and the general renewed
sense of fear of the unknown fallout shelters are making a comeback.
While the current demand for fallout shelters is nothing near
what it was in the 1950's through the 1980's, one fact (and
one popular saying) remains true: Everything that's old is new