Fallout Shelters Experience Surge in Popularity

cnn Bomb ShelterOriginally published as CNN Sunday Morning: Fallout Shelters Experience Surge in Popularity, Dec. 23, 2001

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: During the height of the Cold War, school kids learned to duck and cover and nuclear fear struck deep, sometimes 15 or 20 feet. Well in recent years, those backyard fallout shelters became time capsules of sorts. But then September 11 reawakened old fears.

CNN’s Bill Delaney explains.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): By the time the great fear of the 1950s and much of the ’60s too, nuclear war, faded so did building that backyard bunker, the fallout shelter. Becoming a near comic image of another crew cut generation’s paranoia.

Well, fallout shelters are serious business again. Sales quadrupled around the country since September 11. Paul Siefriend who lives outside Salt Lake City, Utah is already ready.

PAUL SIEFRIEND: This is an 18-by-32 foot shelter. It’s very cramped, and it would accommodate about four to eight people. I have about 800 gallons of water in my shelter. We have a lot of canned fruit. We have canned goods that are very easy to prepare. We have several radios and radiation survey instruments. I do this because I have kids. There are nasty people out there that have some dangerous weaponry.

DELANEY: Keeping to the apocalyptic theme, Siefriends even got a red phone. As for profiting from a potential nightmare scenario, with price tags for shelters now averaging around $50,000 and as high as $300,000.

WALTON MCCARTHY: Under here is a 125-gallon water tank built into the shelter.

DELANEY: Well, Walton McCarthy sells shelters.

MCCARTHY: You got plenty of headroom. You can do jumping jacks down here.

DELANEY: Up in New Hampshire.

MCCARTHY: We have three markets. We have a military market. We have a commercial market, and we have a residential market. It’s bad in a sense that I’m sorry that there’s something that people had to die for that makes our business strong. But it’s just like selling seat belts. We think there’s going to be other threats out there.

DELANEY: Though some ask whether building a fallout shelter isn’t just digging yourself into a hole.

(on camera): Why a shelter after all in a relatively remote place like say, New Hampshire, when a terror attack is much more likely in a major city like Boston. In the suburban and rural places most shelters are built, experts say, the most likely fallout could be city people running for their lives.

(voice over): A recent study conducted for the Governor of New Hampshire concluded the states most likely nightmare scenario isn’t so much a terrorist attack as a mass evacuation of Boston, following a terrorist attack there, which would leave people in shelters hiding from desperate people without shelter. How’s that for a nightmare scenario?

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.