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3 min Read
Published August 13, 2017

Nuclear Standoff Has Bomb Shelter Sales Booming

“We do not want a war. We do not know whether there will be war. But we know that forces hostile to us possess weapons that could destroy us if we were unready. These weapons create a new threat—radioactive fallout that can spread death anywhere. That is why we must prepare.” The Family Fallout Shelter Publication – 1959

A renewed spark of interest in obtaining fallout shelters has slowly been increasing since President Trump took office in January 2017. Combined with North Korea’s recent missile test, the sale of fallout shelters are up 700 percent according to Clyde Scott who is the owner of Texas company Rising S Bunkers. Scott reported to CNBC that his company was backlogged up to a year with fallout shelter request with 80% interest coming from Japan.

The hashtag #Trumpocolypse that captured social media has taken on a whole new meaning with recent Twitter comments from President Trump regarding Russia and North Korea. Trump’s statements have sparked controversy recently tweeting that the military is “locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely” leaving Americans uncertain with the threat of nuclear annihilation from Kim Jong-un’s regime.

America’s history with fallout shelters began during President Truman’s presidency in 1949 when the Soviet Union detonated their first atomic bomb.

This incident introduced the world to the possibility of nuclear war. Fear of nuclear war grew during the 1950’s with the development of the hydrogen bomb. In 1951, The Department of Civil Defense released several publications and films educating the citizens of the United States the dangers of the atomic threat, effects of radiation and how to protect their families from nuclear fallout.

One such popular film, Duck and Cover, starring a lovable cartoon character, Bert the Turtle, was released as a public awareness campaign in 1951 for school children.

The film was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2004. The United States Library of Congress declared the film as “historically significant” and was seen by millions of school children during the 1950’s. Duck and Cover was also displayed and distributed to school children as a comic book.

During that same time, Civil Defense also released another educational film, Survival Under Atomic Attack, more suited for adult audiences.

Anxiety ran high with Russia exploding their hydrogen bomb and setting off the arms and space race as the Cold war between the two superpowers escalated. Along with educational films released by Civil Defense, a campaign known as “Alert America” with the distribution and promotion of pamphlets, booklets and portable exhibits offering suggestions on how to survive an atomic attack. Radiation readings along with weather reports were published in newspapers along with blueprints of how to build your own fallout shelters. Hollywood and television began producing doomsday films and shows like the “The Twilight Zone” and nuclear war films like “The Last Man on Earth.”

The 1960’s brought more international tensions during the Kennedy Administration with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the building of the Berlin Wall. Kennedy requested Congress in 1961 to approve $100 million for public fallout shelters and nuclear alarm systems. Tensions eased with the American public when arms control talks and limited nuclear test ban proceeded and plans for public fallout shelters were postponed.

In addition to a rise in consumer sales of fallout shelters, doomsday prepper supplies have also seen their sales revenue jump since Trump was elected. Supplies like freeze-dried foods, home canning equipment, water filtration systems, gas masks, and generators are the most popular purchases. Google searches for “prepper” hit their highest level in August and searches for “survivalism” had a high ranking in July, according to Google Trends.

After two years of the minute hand staying set at three minutes before the hour, the Doomsday clock was moved 30 seconds closer to midnight this month. The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic warning about how close the world stands to “midnight,” that is, nuclear or existential catastrophe. Since 1947, the Doomsday Clock has been maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a conglomeration of experts on nuclear policy, climate change, and other global threats. The initial setting of the minute hand was 7 minutes to midnight and over the years has fluctuated from 17 minutes in 1991 to 3 minutes in 2016.

Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, left, and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Thomas Pickering announce the decision to move the so-called ‘Doomsday Clock’ to 2-1/2 minutes to midnight on Jan. 26, 2017. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

Recent Trump comments over nuclear weapons, the threat of renewed arms race between the United States and Russia, and the scientific consensus over climate change has forced the minute hand closest to midnight since 1953. “This is the closest to midnight the Doomsday Clock has ever been in the lifetime of almost everyone in this room. It’s been 64 years since it was closer,” said Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University and the chair of the Bulletin’s board of sponsors.

Modern day preppers are taking advantage of today’s technology that past fallout shelters did not have in the past. Over time, old fallout shelters have deteriorated, rusted out and filled with water. Modern day fallout shelters offer luxuries that were not available during the Cold War era. The latest boom trend in real estate sales features luxury fallout shelters that provide spaces for an indoor pool, gyms and basketball courts. Modern fallout shelters are designed as concrete tombs instead of steel compartments buried deep underground to escape the nuclear fallout.

  • You can have all your major amenities: TV, high power and high voltage appliances and horticulture rooms where you can grow vegetables and gardens, a full shower, all the amenities of your full home said Brad Roberson, marketing director for Rising S Company.

The American public has become awakened again to the idea of fallout shelters. Most consumers are purchasing pre-made shelters in the preparation of not just a nuclear attack, but also preparations of economic collapse, terrorist attacks and natural disasters due to climate change. reports that sales of pre-made and custom-made bunkers have increased 1,000 percent. The increased interest in fallout shelters today doesn’t come with the panic and fear of the 1950’s and 1960’s that prompted homeowners to construct more than 200,000 fallout shelters in their backyards.

Construction of the fallout shelters during that time was even kept a secret from their neighbors. But it does go to show you that fallout shelters are not just relics of the Cold War that were left behind.

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  • Hope Thompson


  • Trying to educate the world one SLICE OF HISTORY at a time! Hope Thompson is a freelance journalist focused on hidden history, Southern & Appalachian folklife, and Native American culture. She is a native of North Carolina and has been writing for this space for four years. She currently works in state government finance and owns a graphic design business. All my articles.

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