Disaster Shelters

I am in awe. I didn’t realize how mature was the bomb shelter industry.  From the October 2010 Wired (p.112, not yet online):

Kennedy-era fallout shelters were little more than cement boxes filled with cans of spinach. Modern end-time housing structures, like those from Radius Engineering, are smart and stylish. Take the [$160M] Trongonia 8, a modular, self-sufficient, radiation-proof colony – complete with fitness center, restaurants, and city hall – that will keep as many as 2000 people safe and snug for up to five years. …. Radius’ shelters start at $200,000; the [36 person] multifamily pod shown below goes for $2 million, plus about 25 percent for shipping and installation. They all have fiberglass shells. … The bunkers can run for [4] years entirely off the grid. … And they’re buried far enough underground to be impervious to radiation. … The sealed and pressurized units come with specially designed air filtration that uses three different physical purifiers and an ultraviolet-radiation sterilization system. Radius has installed more than 1000 shelters worldwide over the past 30 years; most are intended to protect key people in the government, military, insurance industry, and medical services.

Check out the impressive attention to detail at the Radius Engineering website.

To me, this is all good news about humanity’s ability to survive severe disaster.  And it makes me sad that the usual reaction to stories like this is to make fun of the people who would want such a shelter. Apparently, being concerned about disaster is taken to be a bad sign; they might believe in 2012 Mayan calendar prophesies, for example, or worry too much about their precious bodily fluids. But regardless of the impressiveness of their motives, the act of creating a shelter which might make the difference in preventing humanity’s extinction is a kind and generous act toward vast future generations which might not otherwise exist.  If charity was about help, rather than signaling loyalty or wealth, we would celebrate such people.

I wonder where it would be legal to rent out a bed in such a shelter, to support refuge futures. Radius says:

The smaller shelters have no foundation and are therefore not considered a permanent structure and therefore DO NOT require a building permit.   The larger  shelters have a concrete foundation however it is poured in a fiberglass tray.  Since the concrete is within the Radius structure, the foundation is not considered permanent.

Could one rent it as a “campsite”?

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  • chesh

    Starting at $200,000? While the roomier models are quite a bit pricier, they’re still in the neighborhood of a nice house. If I was in a position to buy a house, I’d seriously consider buying an empty plot with a shelter, instead.

  • Bobby

    I don’t get your argument in favor of survivalists. “They help the human race survive disaster, and that’s a good thing” is just one side of the story. Society is still incurring a cost to get that benefit — the resources used to build a survival shelter could be used to do any number of other useful things. To know whether survivalists are making a cost-justified effort, we need to know how likely disaster is and how likely their efforts make the survival of the human race in the face of disaster. You never address those questions (well, you probably do, somewhere. But you never link to you addressing those questions).

    That’s also a reason why it’s bad if survivalists hold irrational beliefs. It makes it less likely that they are correctly weighing up the costs and benefits of their actions. For example, it might be the case that most disasters actually capable of wiping the species out would do such damage to the biosphere that sitting out the first six years of the disaster in a shelter would do little more than extend the human race’s lifespan by six years. In that case, our best survival strategy might be solar and (if possible) extra-solar colonization, or enhanced monitoring of earth crossing asteroids, or spending money on nuclear deterrence or anti-ballistic missile defense systems, or even just going about our business enhancing scientific knowledge and gdp to put us in a better position to prepare for the likely scenarios over the long term. A premillennial dispensationalist wouldn’t be worried about those things, he’d be busy wasting resources on a fallout shelter.

    So what makes you think that the sort of disasters that 1. could wipe out the human race and 2. could be survived by the fallout shelters on that web site are likely enough to make it worthwhile to spend hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars on preparing for them?

    • John

      Every country on every continent has experienced war, civil unrest and other types of peril. To say that it is “bad for a survivalist to hold irrational beliefs” is quite amusing. Who are you to judge if a belief is bad or not? In this world, it is up to the individual to hold beliefs on religion, politics and morality; its not up to the general population to make those choices for the individual. So long as the person(s) spending the thousands to millions of dollars on shelters are not harming others; it is their choice to do so.

      As to your comments to the cost-justified benefits of such beliefs is also beyond ridiculous. If a persons net worth is to a point that such an investment would be minuscule and un-missed as he/she wrote the check, then is it a good investment? People have all sorts of insurance that cover events that in all likelihood, would never happen, does that mean it is not worth the price of the premium for piece of mind? Maybe for you not, but as this is a free country, lets leave it to those fortunate enough to write a check. On the bright side for you, those don’t get built themselves, so at least there is a sizable benefit to the working class to build and service them. Try to think before you post, so that you don’t immediately sound like a socialist. Thank you.

    • Houshalter

      The amount of resources being spent on survival shelters is so small as to not be worth worrying about. If that’s your concern.

      Building self-sufficient other planets would be incredibly expensive. Many orders of magnitude more than building a few fallout shelters, maybe even impossible with our technology level. Not that the money spent on fallout shelters would go to it otherwise, or would be enough to make any significant progress towards it.

  • Brett

    I didn’t realize they were that cheap. If I had the money, I’d probably buy a more permanent one with a better foundation, and stock it with a 15-20 year food supply instead (if possible).

    In particular, I found this astonishing –

    Take the [$160M] Trongonia 8, a modular, self-sufficient, radiation-proof colony – complete with fitness center, restaurants, and city hall – that will keep as many as 2000 people safe and snug for up to five years.

    Only $160 million for a 2000-person shelter? That’s a bargain. We should probably build a couple dozen to hundred of those around the country, just to be sure in case of a nuclear/biological attack.

  • zombieman000

    “precious bodily fluids”
    Dr. Strangelove?

  • J. Daniel Wright

    I agree with you, Robin – I believe the people who install these shelters show an appropriate awareness of the actual odds of societal disaster. They’re not the type of people who would have told you in 2001 that they expected to earn 15% on their stock portfolios ad infinitum.

  • Jonas
  • rapscallion

    I’d demand that all the workers on my shelter have shelters of their own. Otherwise, when the s*** hits the fan, they’ll just invade my shelter.

  • MichaelG

    Useless in Grey Goo or Intelligence Explosion scenarios. Nuclear war is so 1960s.

  • Anonymous

    There also exist many very good, and much less expensive, fallout and disaster shelters . Check out these, for example:
    http://utahsheltersystems.com/about.php
    and http://store.prepared.pro/falloutshelters.aspx

  • randy

    Does anyone believe they’ll have enough time to get to their shelter? Or that they won’t fall prey to someone who is armed with some explosives and a shotgun, which would be much cheaper than purchasing a shelter?

  • Adrian Ratnapala

    But will they work as advertised. I expect that survival depends critically on inmates’ ability to fix the “ultraviolet-radiation sterilization system” etc.
    I worry that a nice turnkey commercial system might be sold as: No worries mate, you don’t need the manual, our patented bug killer will just work. You can sue as if it doesn’t.

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    Re: “But regardless of the impressiveness of their motives, the act of creating a shelter which might make the difference in preventing humanity’s extinction is a kind and generous act toward vast future generations which might not otherwise exist. If charity was about help, rather than signaling loyalty or wealth, we would celebrate such people.”

    Survivalism is genetically selfish. Most likely much of it is misguided, though – a bad gamble – and so it fits neatly into the “selfish and stupid” category. Their contribution to society and its aims seems likely to be negative – since they frequently withdraw from it, seeking wilderness – instead of helping.

  • Matthew Bailey

    Is no one else at all worried about their connection to “Newsmax” and such people who endorse their products such as Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh?

  • j r

    I am not sure how to reconcile this:

    But regardless of the impressiveness of their motives, the act of creating a shelter which might make the difference in preventing humanity’s extinction is a kind and generous act toward vast future generations which might not otherwise exist.

    with this:

    Radius has installed more than 1000 shelters worldwide over the past 30 years; most are intended to protect key people in the government, military, insurance industry, and medical services.

    There’s an industry to protect the only group of people capable of starting a nuclear war from the effects of a nuclear war. Am I the only one who finds that disturbing?

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  • Tangurena

    So what makes you think that the sort of disasters that 1. could wipe out the human race and 2. could be survived by the fallout shelters on that web site are likely enough to make it worthwhile to spend hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars on preparing for them?

    An economic collapse of the US would result in massive starvation and population collapse within 2 years. Oil-supplied energy allows for modern day farming to support a population vastly higher than that of 1900 America. Since pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are all made from natural gas (or other petroleum products) as well as the diesel used to drive the tractors and combines used to grow the food, and used to drive the food to market, a collapse will result in an agricultural system that won’t be able to support even a 1900-level population as all of the animals that could be used for plowing and harvesting don’t exist. And if you’re interested, many farmers of that era used to set aside about 25% of their land to support their draught animals.

    There is an interesting author, Dmitri Orlov, who has written about the Soviet Union’s collapse, and why their nation was better able to survive a total economic collapse than the US is capable of doing.

    His book at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Reinventing-Collapse-Example-American-Prospects/dp/0865716064
    One of his earlier versions of his essays: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/23259

    For starters, I’d refer you to slide 15 in his early essay about food production. Because the Soviet economy was functionally broken, most of the vegetables were grown in urban allotments by individuals. In contrast, here in the US we have a grass fetish with many HOAs forbidding growing much else other than grass and ornamental shrubbery. I think that one can look at the upwelling in backyard gardening in the past 2 years as a sign that more people are trying to at least soften the crash for themselves. Humans cannot digest grass. Cattle, sheep and goats can. Are you growing food or grass in your backyard? What do you plan to eat if you get laid off? And with states struggling to pay to keep streetlights on, and with some counties having to grind up pavement into gravel because they cannot afford to maintain streets, what makes you think that there will be a safety net when you (and millions of others) need it?

    If people try to flee the cities, there is no place for them to live, no homes for them to be taken into, and no rural communities capable of adopting the vast quantities of fleeing people.

    My estimate is that an economic collapse of the US will result in about 90% population loss (desert areas like LA or Phoenix will have closer to 100% population losses as there isn’t enough rain to support subsistance living of more than a miniscule fraction of the current population) as the stores run out and people revert to eating “roof rabbit” (the nickname given to cat and dog meat during war time and depressions) before resorting to cannibalism. Having all the guns in the world won’t help when there is nothing to take from others.

    Wealthy people can afford those shelters, so they can afford to sit out the collapse. The larger shelters are well within the budget of the larger mega-churches.

  • http://www.prepared.pro Victor Rantala

    Our company, Safecastle LLC, is one of the top shelter builders in the USA. Our shelters are steel-plate–fabricated to the customer’s specifications … and dollar for dollar, per cubic foot, the most affordable, robust shelter in the marketplace. They are engineered to last 90 years, are lifetime guaranteed for structural integrity, they are tight as a drum and have more uses than just as a last refuge in the event of the “end of the world.”

    Our builder has installed more than 500 all over the USA in the last 15 years. Seven-figure shelters are not uncommon for the wealthy. Moreover, communities, corporations, and government organizations purchase larger ones–as storm shelters.

    But many, many Americans purchase shelters to go under their new construction or in their backyards. It’s actually a quick, easy project that has no comparable peace of mind that I am aware of. NBC shelters for a family can start in the $20K ballpark–the cost of a small car or a tiny room addition.

    Selfish? That’s beyond my capacity to understand that criticism. The folks who are buying such peace of mind today are mostly serious people who choose not to fritter their available money away on whimsical, entertaining toys that deliver no sustaining value. Blue collar people, professionals, doctors, lawyers, government-types–all kinds of folks are buying shelters and saferooms today. The one characteristic they all have–they are all concerned about the direction the world is headed. They feel pretty helpless and see a shelter of their own as a way of doing what they can for their loved ones.

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