Underground Bunkers Now and Then:Security Shelters for Changing Threats
From the secret safe areas in medieval castles to “panic rooms” found in someurban residences and office buildings, fortified refuges have always played a rolein security preparation. During the 20th Century, when modern warfare put civilian populations at risk, civil defense planners adapted on the military fortifications pioneered in the U.S. Civil War and World War I by creating underground shelters of various kinds. These facilities became familiar during the Cold War, and even though the much-feared nuclear conflict never materialized, many Civil Defense bunkers have proven useful as shelters for people afflicted by natural disasters of various kinds.Underground bunkers can be as rudimentary as a hand-dug foxhole, or aselaborate and sophisticated as the subterranean complex such as the oneestablished beneath the ill-fated Maginot Line. Amid gathering economic and social crises, the prospect of terrorist attacks, and the continuing plague of natural catastrophes, people seeking to provide security for themselves and their families would be wise to investigate the various options for building anunderground security shelter
For centuries, people seeking security in uncertain times have looked tounderground protection from attack and mass violence. “Bunkers” of this kindrun the spectrum from the miry trenches of World War I, the foxholes of World War II, to the all but impenetrable Colorado mountain fortress that housesNORAD’s command center.During World War II, the German “Blitz” of London drove many English familiesto seek shelter underground. Refugees crowded the subway tunnels. Somefamilies were able to devise their own shelters. One popular method was the useof exterior basement or cellar stair wells – generally made of brick or stone -- astemporary shelter. An arched corrugated metal cover was placed over thestairwell and covered with one or two feet of dirt. This could provide animpressive degree of protection: In one incident, a bomb landed in a yard rightnext to an improvised shelter of this kind, and the occupants emerged unscathed while the home was completely destroyed. The effectiveness of this methodpromoted the British government to issue the arched corrugated covers to anyone who had a suitable stairwell.