Virtual Shelter Tours

National Fallout Shelter Program / Public Shelter Virtual Tours

First Baptist Sign Caldwell Elementary Sign Community Savings Sign LaGrange College Peoples Bank Sign
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Old Power Plant
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Grayson County
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    Preston Doctors Center Sign
Preston Doctors
Center, Dallas Tx

Click a sign above to see a photo tour of that shelter.

The 1964 Civil Defense Annual Report describes the national fallout shelter program as follows..

The National Shelter Program(1)
Since becoming operational in September 1961, the National Shelter Program has been the principal source of producing public fallout shelters needed to provide nationwide protection for all the population. Key operational elements of this program are:

  1. Locating suitable fallout shelter space in existing facilities,
  2. securing signitures of facility owners on license agreements to permit use of acceptable space,
  3. marking shelters with distinctive signs,
  4. stocking licensed shelter with survival supplies,
  5. locating additional shelter space where needed, and
  6. keeping shelter data current.
At the end of 1964, fallout shelter space for approximately 121.4 million persons had been located; space for nearly 64 million had been marked; space for nearly 63 million had been licensed; and space for nearly 24 million had been stocked.

The Federal CD Guide National Fallout Shelter Program section is downloadable here...
The Federal Civil Defense Guide Part C, Chapter 1 October 1970. The National Fallout Shelter Program. PDF File.

Suitable fallout shelter space in existing facilities, as mentioned above, was defined as follows...

  1. A shelter area with a PF (Protection Factor see below) of at least 40.
  2. Minimum capacity of 50 persons.
  3. 10 square feet of floor space for each person if properly ventilated.
  4. 500 cubic feet of space if unventilated. (see ventilation below)

H. Protection Factor Of Shelters(1)

  1. The amount of protection by shielding which a shelter gives is called the protection factor, the PF, of that shelter.
  2. The PF of a shelter amounts to the difference between the radiation dose a person in that shelter would receive as compared with the amount he would receive if he were unprotected. For example, if in a shelter with a PF of 100, a person is exposed to 100 times less radiation than is someone who is unprotected.

Public fallout shelters were not "bomb shelters!"

Public fallout shelters designated as part of the national shelter program were NEVER intended to be shelters that offered any blast protection. They are often called "bomb shelters" which they absolutely were not because the term "bomb shelter" implies that the shelter has protection against the effects of blast. Public fallout shelters were only ever intended to be shelters where refuge could be taken from fallout radiation. Since high-rise buildings (see drawings below) would meet the reqirements of radiation sheilding in the central core/upper floors that's why 70% of shelter space identified in the national shelter survey was located in the upper floors of high rise buildings.(3) There were some public shelters that did have blast protection inherent in their structures such as deep caves, mines, dams, etc. but the vast majority of public shelters were located in regular buildings. See drawings below for examples.

Examples Of Typical Fallout Shelter Locations
Drawings From DOD OCD Publication TR-48; Fallout Shelter In Industrial and Commercial Buildings

Page From CD Pub TR48 Page From CD Pub TR48

Page From CD Pub TR48

DOD OCD promoted including fallout shelter space into new building design and construction. They featured annual awards for architects and architectural firms that submitted designs for buildings that included fallout shelter in the design. Above is an example from a booklet that was issued as part of that promotional effor which covered several existing building desings that provided fallout shelter space in the original design. These drawings are of the 3M Company Headquarters building in Saint Paul, Minnesota and are good plan views of how certain areas of existing buildings were designated as fallout shelter space. These drawings also show how high rise buildings offered fallout shelter space through the inner core of the building. The basement of the 3M building also has shelter space shown by the brown shaded areas. Click images to see larger.

National Shelter Survey
The first phase of the national fallout shelter program was the National Shelter Survey to locate potential public fallout shelter space in existing structures. The NFS was started in September 1961. The survey was under the direction of the Office of Civil Defense, assisted by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks, and hundreds of architects and engineers who had been specially trained in fallout shelter analysis. The survey was made possible by procedures which had been developed from more than five years of research -- procedures where a number of complicated calculations could be made rapidly on various types of structures to determine the degree of protection the structures would offer against penetrating gamma radiation.(4)

The Federal CD Guide Indentification (Survey) Of Fallout Shelter In Existing Buildings section is downloadable here...
The Federal Civil Defense Guide Part C, Chapter 2 November 1970. Idendification (Survey) Of Fallout Shelter In Existing Buildings.

The surveyors sought out areas in buildings with sufficient mass or distance between the shelter areas and the outside where fallout radiation could have been deposited. For example, basement areas with heavy concrete or masonry walls, upper floors of high rise buildings (distance from fallout on the ground), dams, tunnels and even caves are the types of areas that were designated as fallout shelters.

The National Fallout Shelter Survey did continue on as part of the Facility Survey program through 1992. The Facility Survey program is described in the October 1990 Shelter Survey Update Guidance paper.

The Facility Survey program currently conducts three types of nationwide surveys: (1) The National Fallout Shelter (NFS) Survey - Identifies buildings which provide protection from nuclear fallout. (2) The Reception and Care (RAC) Survey - Collects information about buildings which may be used as mass care facilities. (3) The Natural Hazard Vulnerability (NHV) Survey - Rates a building's ability to withstand certain natural hazards such as wind, flood or earthquake.

These surveys are in various stages of completion throughout the country. Local officials, as part of the Emergency Management Assistance program, are to provide basic update information through the State offices to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This update information is then used to correct the Shelter survey data bases and to generate corrected printouts of the shelter information back to the local officials.

This guidance is provided to assist local officials in the performance of update surveys of shelters that have been identified in their jurisdiction. The quality of the update effort will result in better formal information on the shelters benefiting both the state planners and the emergency management officials at the local level.(5)

More National Public Fallout Shelter Program Information

Community Fallout Shelter Plan Link Fallout Shelter Sign Link

Community Shelter Plan
Many communities distributed Community Shelter Plans or "CSPs". The CSP usually consisted of a map and list of shelters with areas marked on the map for specific shelters. To see several examples of CSPs from around the country check out the Community Shelter Plan page.

Fallout Shelter Supplies
Many public fallout shelters were partially if not fully stocked with supplies. These supplies were most commonly placed in out-of-the-way locations of the shelter areas. The Office of Civil Defense plan was to provide 2 weeks worth of supplies in the shelters. Initial radiation from fallout would be very intense. The more intensely radioactive the fallout, the faster it will decay since it is the more unstable. The plan was for a 2 week shelter stay to allow time for this radiation to drop to a level where it might be possible to leave the shelter for a short period of time to seek out more supplies or to move to areas outside the shelter permanantly. Of course it would depend on the radiation levels outside the shelter at the time.

Adequate ventilation was figured in when shelter area capacity was calculated during the national shelter survey. This was based on unaided air circulation through the shelter area. There was a plan to equip public shelters with ventilation kits to allow more people to occupy shelters where shelter capacities were reduced due to inadequate ventilation. The ventilation kits were never widely produced though (less than 2000), but some did make it out into shelters and were stocked with supplies.

The Community Shelter Program Fades Away....
The community shelter program gradually faded away through the 1970s and very early 1980s. The last federal funding for fallout shelter supplies was in the mid-1960s. The latest manufacturing date I have seen on any shelter supplies was on a can of carbohydrate supplement which, if I remember correctly, was April 1965. Most municipalities simply left the supplies in the shelters to be disposed of by the building owners since their CD budgets had declined and they didn't have municipal resources to clean out the shelters themselves. I think the term used to describe that was "abandoned in place." There are still faclilities across the country, that were designated as shelters, with supplies in place to this day. Several examples are shown in the shelter tours at the top of this page.

The City of Dallas Texas is the only city I know of that actually sold off their entire lot of remaining shelter supplies. The City Of Dallas Texas auctioned their remaining shelter supplies in 1981. The winning bidders were two men who cleaned out all the remaining supplies from the shelters in Dallas themselves. At that time many of the Dallas fallout shelters still had stocks of water containers, sanitation kits and medical kits. Dallas had cleared out their shelter food stocks in the mid-1970s sometime. I don't remember the exact date. It's no coincidence that my CD collection started at that very same time that the Dallas fallout shelters were cleaned out in 1981.

(1)Office of Civil Defense 1964 Annual Report, Page 17
(2)Shelter Management Training, Instructors Guide, IG-16.1, DOD OCD, June 1968 Pg 1-6
(3)Department of Defense Fallout Shelter Program, DOD OCD, November 1963
(4)Civil Defense 1965, DOD OCD, April 1965 Page 11
(5) Shelter Survey Update Guidance FEMA October 1990

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