Originally Published in Popular Mechanics, by Joe P. Hasler on July 22, 2009
Dirty bombs, stray missiles, flus named after animals—it seems the world’s threats loom large enough nowadays that anyone who isn’t paranoid should pay more attention. Fortunately, bomb-shelter styles are as varied as the paths to annihilation. Ranging in sophistication from down-and-dirty underground dens to opulent, impenetrable palaces, here are six of PM’s favorite shrines to self-preservation.
Thirty-one years in the business has taught Walton McCarthy just about everything there is to know about preparing for the worst. McCarthy is the author of Principles of Protection: U.S. Handbook of Weapon Fundamentals and Shelter Engineering Design Standards, and his company, Radius Engineering, maintains the lion’s share of the prefabricated shelter market. (He claims 99 percent, adding, “When it comes to manufacturing these, we are it.”) Radius offers a diverse line of products. Customers can pick and choose from an assortment of shelter units, which can then be connected via tubing, like a giant, underground hamster playpen. All of Radius’ units are impervious to radar observation. Built from fiberglass, the structures have no thermal or metallic signature. They’re all “bright, light and dry,” McCarthy says.
The CAT25, Radius’ most popular model, can house up to 25 shelterists for as long as five months. The $320,000 CAT25 comes equipped with filtration systems built to handle nuclear, biological and chemical events, and has about 8 feet of head room. McCarthy says the CAT25 is selling like hot cakes in California, and adds that unnameable government entities are snapping them up as well. “The government is buying up all the shelters,” McCarthy says. “We can’t make enough.”
And if you’re in the market for something a little more extravagant, you can spring for the $420,000 Earthcom Dome. The 60 x 20-foot shelter can serve as a central atrium, linked to other Radius models, or it can be used as a sort of single-family underground shelter condo, complete with a shower, kitchen and living room. As bomb shelters go, this is the Four Seasons.