Second SheltersOriginally published at SecondShelters by Candy Evans on March 31, 2011

I think this is one second dig every homeowner ought to have — a bomb shelter!  And talk about a business that doubles every year — go into the bomb shelter business! Sales of high tech survival shelters have surged from 20 to 1,000%, thanks to our national angst. Veteran bunker builder Walton McCarthy calls it the “Pearl Harbor Blues”.  In January, he says, a 161 page Homeland Security report slipped out of Washington depicting a national planning & prep scenario listing the top 15 weapons of mass destruction and scenarios on how they could affect all major cities in the country, including Dallas. Outlook: super grim. Now here we are in another Middle East war with Libya, with a leader who is not a happy camper, plus all the other unrest in the Middle East, plus Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan.  Then Japan has had an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. It’s like, Armageddon!

“The safest place to be when all hell breaks loose,” says McCarthy, “Is 35 feet underground.”

Actually, when Iran launched a test Scud missile from a platform in the Caspian Sea in July of 2008, it was the defining moment, says McCarthy. Now McCarthy, a Defense Department contractor and national expert on designing ‘high-tech’ WMD (that’s Weapons of Mass Destruction) shelters, says Iran plans to bleed us dry by cutting off all electricity, in effect forcing us to become a third world nation where I guess we’ll be lucky to find a camel to carry us to work, if we still have any jobs. (You’ll NEVER catch me in a Burka!) Now he is getting more than 1,000 emails a day at Radius Engineering, his hopping 52,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Terrell, Texas, 30 miles east of Dallas, from people inquiring about his bomb shelters. Price tag: $108,000 and upwards depending on how fancy you want that second underground shelter to be? IKEA or Cantoni?

“It’s a great investment,” says McCarthy. “And they are portable.”

McCarthy, whose company has been building bomb shelters for 32 years, tells me his company has a bomb shelter in every city capital in in every state. Half his business is in D.C., and I’ll bet he has created bomb shelters for every politician in Texas.

His biggest consumers are not your typical gun-crazed militia-type. They are normal paranoid professionals like physicians and corporations, medical groups, churches, municipalities, also politicians of course, and CEOs who have to stay alive to function.

(Don’t we all?)

Whereas he used to build a few a month, he’s now building a shelter a day — 1300 this year at a price tag of $108,000 each, the cheapest. McCarthy says he comes in on a Saturday and digs the hole, it’s installed by Monday morning so the neighbors cannot you-know-what and the HOA can’t do anything. If they snoop, all they see is a three-foot diameter plate on the ground.

Here’s why he’s so secretive — uses only his crew, leaves no paper trail, even drives by the house a few times before stopping in discreet trucks. The 1978 War Powers Act, he says, gives governments a right to commandeer shelters for the benefit of the public. That’s why he thinks secrecy of the location is paramount.

“When Hurricane Katrina hit, government officials tried to break in with limited force to commandeer supplies at two of our shelters,” says McCarthy, “they were unsuccessful.”

McCarthy’s bomb shelters are composite and fiberglass, and stealth — they will not collect or attract an electromagnetic pulse. So might not be a bad place to hide from spouse or kids, either.

The shelter goes 35 underground with 8.5 feet of earth shielding the top, internal generators, and a composite structure with no corrosion factor so the things last 300 years.

And I had to ask — do they need to be vacuumed?

Not really, just maintained once a year. (I’d put a Miele in there, to be sure.) McCarthy says his shelters are designed to resist 7 basic assaults from people trying to break in and cannot be detected by planes overhead.

And don’t think you are out of luck if you live in an urban apartment or condo: McCarthy sells units to make your master bedroom and bath totally nuke safe. With freeze-dried food and water, he tells me you could live in there for 30 days without electrical power — $30,000 delivered anywhere in the U.S.

Wow. Have you ever thought of building a bomb shelter? They’d also be great protection during a tornado. But McCarthy has me all worried: when disaster hits, he says, it will be survival of the fittest and hungry, thirsty people will head for the rich homes where they can find (and steal) food and whatever else they need. Total chaos. Sounds really awful. Me, I think I’ll head for the Hills.