Fallout and Nuclear Bomb Shelters Near Me (Locations and Options) (2023)

If a nuclear bomb were to hit, the blast would create a massive fireball which would vaporize everything nearby. The fireball would shoot miles into the atmosphere – pulling dirt and debris with it. The radioactive debris then falls back to the earth, contaminating everything it touches.

This is known as fallout. You’d need to immediately get in a fallout shelter to avoid getting poisoned.

Wind and rain can cause fallout to spread far away from the blast site. This “delayed fallout” could cause radioactive particles to fall all over the earth – which is why knowing where a fallout shelter is essential, even if you don’t live near a potential target.

While you hopefully never will need this information, it can’t hurt to know where fallout shelters are located nearby and what to do if a nuclear alert goes off.

What Are Fallout Shelters?

Contrary to what some people think, a fallout shelter is not the same as a bomb shelter. It is not meant to help you survive the destruction from a nuclear bomb.

Even if you had enough warning to get to a bomb shelter, experts generally agree that a nuclear bomb would vaporize everything within 0.3 miles of Ground Zero.

Instead, the purpose of a fallout shelter is to protect you from the radioactive particles falling from the sky. By getting into a shelter quickly, you can avoid the lethal fallout levels immediately after the blast.

Tip: Check out the NukeMap tool. It lets you map a nuclear bomb’s blast area and fallout distance and even lets you change wind direction to see how far fallout would blow.

What Makes a Good Fallout Shelter?

Fallout shelters need to be made from thick layers of dense material. The more material you have between you and the fallout, the more protection you will have. This is why many fallout shelters are built in basements or abandoned mines: the layers of dirt provide natural protection against fallout.

How well a shelter protects against fallout is measured as Protective Factor (PF). Think of it like SPF but for fallout. In a shelter with a PF of 200, you would receive 1/200th of the dose you would have received in the open.

How Quickly Do You Need to Get Inside a Fallout Shelter?

You have only about 10 to 15 minutes to get to shelter before massive amounts of toxic fallout falls to earth. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, these minutes are critical to survival.

(Video) The rise and fall of the American fallout shelter

The sooner you get inside, the less likely you are to be lethally poisoned or get cancer later down the line.

Tip: Put emergency alerts on your phone

You can set up your phone to get alerts about disasters like nuclear blasts, hurricanes, tornadoes, and more. Read about how here. I also recommend getting an emergency NOAA radio with an alert feature.

Immediate Shelter vs. Evacuating

Federal guidelines (from multiple countries) say you should take immediate shelter in whatever adequate shelter is nearby – even if the shelter doesn’t provide the best protection. An “adequate” shelter would be a shallow basement, the top floor of an office building, or another structure with a PF of at least 10.

The reasoning is this: it is better to stay in an adequate shelter than risk going out into the radioactive fallout at its worst.

Remember that roads get blocked, and traffic gets insane during emergencies. Even if the fallout shelter is only a “short” drive away, you might not make it in time.

You should only evacuate if your current shelter is completely inadequate, such as a mobile home or a wood home without a basement. In these situations, it could be worth the short-term exposure for the long-term protection of a better fallout shelter.

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As you can see from the chart above, spending any amount of time outdoors in the first 30 minutes after a blast could create a lethal dose of radiation. If you have adequate shelter, it’s better to stay put!

How Long Do You Need to Stay Inside a Fallout Shelter?

Because radiation decays rapidly, the potential for radiation exposure decreases 55% an hour after the explosion and 80% after 24 hours. This is why Ready.gov says to shelter for at least 24 hours after a nuclear blast. Ideally, you would shelter even longer.

Remember to have emergency supplies stockpiled in your shelter and a bug out bag packed, so you have everything you need with you.

(Video) Our two Cheapest Fall-Out Shelters

Are There Public Fallout Shelters in the USA?

In the 1960s, the United States had a national fallout shelter program run by the Federal Civil Defense Administration. It created and stocked fallout shelters throughout the country. As a result, you can find many fallout shelters throughout the country.

They are often in the basement of public buildings like movie theaters, banks, or universities. Many residential apartment buildings built during the 1950s and 60s have fallout shelters too.

By the 1970s, funding for this program dried up. The fallout shelters mostly went into neglect or were repurposed for something else – like all those NYC fallout shelters that are now used as laundry rooms.

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Note: Many of these public fallout shelters were not specifically built as such. Instead, they are buildings with thick walls or basements deemed deep enough to protect from the fallout. Your basement might provide better protection!

Fallout Shelters Maps

Below are links to maps of public fallout shelters in the USA. But don’t assume that you’ll be able to use these shelters, though, as most have been completely neglected. Some of the shelters might even be sealed shut. Others might be impossible to access during an emergency, such as military bunkers, which are guarded.

The bottom line? You must go and check out the fallout shelters on the map yourself! Don’t just assume they are still there.

Also, check out the Civil Defense Museum’s Collection of Community Shelter Plans. This collection has old maps showing where fallout shelters were in the 1950s and 60s. They have plans for many places in Texas, Baltimore, Massachusetts, and more. Many shelters are likely discontinued, but you might also be surprised to learn that there is a fallout shelter near your home.

You can also go to Ready.gov Shelters to search for shelters. Most of these are not for fallout but shelters for natural disasters like hurricanes. However, since a natural disaster is much more likely than a nuclear attack, it’s good to know where these shelters are located too.

The Downside of Public Fallout Shelters

One of the problems with public fallout shelters is that anyone could come in. Let’s assume you can get to the shelter within 10 minutes, meaning you’ve escaped the worst of the radiation.

But then, an hour later, someone else comes to the fallout shelter.

Simply opening the door exposes you to radioactive fallout, not the mention all of the fallout on the person’s clothing and body. You might not be able to keep that person out (assuming the door even locks, good luck convincing other people in the shelter not to let the person in!).

(Video) Nuclear Bomb Shelters For Sale For World War 3

Thus, it might make more sense to shelter in your basement than rush to a “better” fallout shelter in the next-door public building.

What If You Can’t Find a Fallout Shelter Near You?

Since it’s improbable that you’ve got a fallout shelter nearby enough to be useful, you should know other safe places. You want to find sites with thick, dense materials around them. These materials do best at shielding from radioactive fallout. Here are some options.

1. Basement or Crawlspace of Your Home

Going into the basement is probably your best choice if a nuclear blast occurs while you are home. As mentioned before, it is better to take adequate shelter than risk high exposure by trying to get to a better fallout shelter located halfway across town.

While basements alone don’t provide much shielding against fallout, there are simple things you can do to increase protection — like building walls out of sandbags and staying behind them. The sandbag would absorb some of the fallout.

2. Large Office Buildings

Because large buildings are usually made with lots of concrete and steel, they can provide excellent shielding against fallout. The basement is the best choice, but an interior room can also provide protection. Other large buildings, such as shopping malls, can also provide protection.

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Image Source: Key Response Planning Factors for the Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism (PDF), CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

3. Underground Parking Garages

Try to get to the lowest level and the most interior part of the parking garage. One study found that the -1 level of parking garages had PFs ranging from 491 to 794. At the -4 level, the protection was up to 6,397.

4. Mines and Caves

Going 3 feet underground will give you a protection factor of 5,000. The actual PF would likely be less because of open entrances, but mines and caves still provide excellent protection against fallout.

However, the problem with relying on a mine or cave as a fallout shelter is that it’s doubtful you’d be able to get to them fast enough. As mentioned before, it’s usually better to stay in a less-protective shelter (like your basement) than risk exposure trying to get to a cave or mine. Plus, don’t be surprised if other people have the same idea and it is crowded with contaminated people!

5. Subway Tunnels

Because they are underground, subway tunnels can protect against fallout. They often have PFs greater than 100. The PF would be higher if it weren’t for ventilation and entranceways found throughout the system.

(Video) Comparing NBC Air Filtration Systems For Your Bomb Shelter

You could increase protection by going deeper into the subway system, far away from entrances (and also further away from new people entering with contaminated clothing and skin). Assuming it wasn’t destroyed by EMP, having a flashlight in your EDC would be useful for getting you deeper into the tunnels.

6. Underground Tourist Attractions

Many places have tunnels, caves, catacombs, and other underground tourist attractions. These could provide excellent protection against fallout, assuming you could make it there in time.

7. Abandoned Underground Locations in Cities

Do a Google search for “urban exploring underground city name.” You’ll find some really cool places which could work as fallout shelters.

Like abandoned subway concourses in Philadelphia. Or the hidden tunnels under San Francisco. Or catacombs in graveyards that you can sneak into.

Unlike touristy sites, these underground attractions are less likely to be crowded in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. You might have to hop a fence or two to gain access, but you could have the place to yourself – thus reducing contact with people covered in fallout.

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Building Your Own Fallout Shelter

Because you need to take shelter immediatelyafter a nuclear blast, having your own fallout shelter at home would be the best option. There are many ways to build one without spending a fortune – such as reinforcing walls in your basement or making a root cellar.

For starters, I recommend checking out the guide by Eugene P. Wigner – a physicist, Nobel Laureate, and “only surviving initiator of the nuclear age.” The guide was last updated in 1987 but still has some good info about building materials and ventilation. You can read the free PDF here.

And while the threat of nuclear war may be terrifying, don’t forget to prioritize your prepping needs! First, focus on emergency food, water, and other essential supplies. Only then should you worry about your nuclear fallout shelter and nuclear survival kit.

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FAQs

Where is the best place to be if a nuclear bomb goes off? ›

Go to the basement or middle of the building.

Stay away from the outer walls and roof. Try to maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and people who are not part of your household. If possible, wear a mask if you're sheltering with people who are not a part of your household.

Where are fallout shelters generally located? ›

Fallout shelters are typically located in the lowermost level or centermost portion of a structure to provide shielding from gamma rays. This might include basements, or other in‐ground or below‐ ground structures, and windowless areas in the center of a home or high‐rise building structure.

How far underground Do you need to be to survive a nuke? ›

Building down to a depth of about ten feet will provide ample protection, but any deeper makes it hard to dig out in the event of a collapse.

Can you survive a nuclear bomb in a house? ›

You must protect yourself from the fallout or you'll have a short life. If you're in a stable structure such as a basement or fire staircase, you can shelter in place for a few days, if necessary. If your building is destroyed, you'll need to move to a nearby intact structure. Block all the doors, windows and air gaps.

Where is the safest place to live if there is a nuclear war? ›

Modelling by The Guardian in 2016 found that “should atomic annihilation be on the cards”, one of the safest places to live would be Antarctica, because the “sub-zero continent” is “miles from anywhere”, or Easter Island in the South Pacific, which is more than 2,000 miles from South America.

How can you protect your home from nuclear radiation? ›

Close and lock all windows and doors, and close fireplace dampers. When you move to your shelter, use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal any doors, windows, or vents for a short period of time in case a radiation plume is passing over (listen to your radio for instructions).

How long would you need to stay in a fallout shelter? ›

It can be hard to gauge when it's safe to emerge from your shelter, but most estimates suggest a minimum stay of 24-hours, and a maximum stay of 14-days - enough time for the initial radiation to fall to (relatively) safe levels.

Does the US have nuclear bunkers? ›

The Government's Secret Underground Nuclear Bunker

How can we prepare for nuclear war? ›

It should include bottled water, packaged foods, emergency medicines, a hand-crank or battery- powered radio to get information in case power is out, a flashlight, and extra batteries for essential items. If possible, store supplies for three or more days.

What would you do if a nuclear war started? ›

Prepare for a nuclear attack by stocking up on non-perishable food, water, and first aid supplies, if possible. Seek shelter indoors immediately. Ideally, go down into the basement, or move to a centrally located room in the house. Stay away from windows.

What to do if a nuke is coming? ›

Move to a shelter, basement, or other underground area, preferably located away from the direction that the wind is blowing. Remove clothing since it may be contaminated; if possible, take a shower, wash your hair, and change clothes before you enter the shelter.

How long would it take for radiation to clear after a nuclear war? ›

For the survivors of a nuclear war, this lingering radiation hazard could represent a grave threat for as long as 1 to 5 years after the attack. Predictions of the amount and levels of the radioactive fallout are difficult because of several factors.

Can you survive a nuke in a basement? ›

Can you Survive A Nuclear Bomb by sheltering in a Basement. Yes and no. Surviving a direct hit from a nuclear strike is unlikely; however, the actual area of that damage is quite small, and it is highly likely that going into the basement will allow you to survive a nuclear bomb.

Can Russian missiles reach the US? ›

New START limits all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons, including every Russian nuclear warhead that is loaded onto an intercontinental-range ballistic missile that can reach the United States in approximately 30 minutes.

What material can survive a nuclear bomb? ›

Once you survive the initial blast, you're going to want as much dense material — concrete, bricks, lead, or even books — between you and the radiation as possible. Fallout shelters are your next safest bet, as they will provide the highest protection from this debris.

Which cities would be targeted in nuclear war? ›

The cities that would most likely be attacked are Washington, New York City and Los Angeles. Using a van or SUV, the device could easily be delivered to the heart of a city and detonated. The effects and response planning from a nuclear blast are determined using statics from Washington, the most likely target.

Do sandbags stop radiation? ›

Sand or compacted clay gives better radiation shielding than earth because it is denser. Each layer of sand-or clay-filled sandbags can give up to 66 percent more radiation protection than the same thickness of soil or soil-filled sandbags.

How do you wash off radiation? ›

Wash your hands, face, and parts of your body that were uncovered at a sink or faucet. Use soap and plenty of water. If you do not have access to a sink or faucet, use a moist wipe, clean wet cloth, or a damp paper towel to wipe the parts of your body that were uncovered. Pay special attention to your hands and face.

How do I reduce radiation in my body? ›

Gently washing with water and soap removes additional radiation particles from the skin. Decontamination prevents radioactive materials from spreading more. It also lowers the risk of internal contamination from inhalation, ingestion or open wounds.

How do you get fresh air in a fallout shelter? ›

Ventilation and Air Filters: These filter and ventilate clean air into your bunker. An N.B.C. (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) filter is your best bet at protecting your shelter from air contaminants and providing fresh air.

How far away from a nuclear explosion can you survive? ›

At a distance of 40-45 miles, a person would have at most 3 hours after the fallout began to find shelter. Considerably smaller radiation doses will make people seriously ill. Thus, the survival prospects of persons immediately downwind of the burst point would be slim unless they could be sheltered or evacuated.

How far does a nuclear bomb effect in miles? ›

The dangerous fallout zone can easily stretch 10 to 20 miles (15 to 30 kilometers) from the detonation depending on explosive yield and weather conditions.

Where are US nuclear bunkers? ›

The Raven Rock Mountain Complex (RRMC), also known as Site R, is a U.S. military installation with an underground nuclear bunker near Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, at Raven Rock Mountain that has been called an "underground Pentagon".
...
Raven Rock Mountain Complex
OwnerU.S. government
Site history
Built1951–1953
7 more rows

Are there fallout shelters in the US? ›

Are There Public Fallout Shelters in the USA? In the 1960s, the United States had a national fallout shelter program run by the Federal Civil Defense Administration. It created and stocked fallout shelters throughout the country. As a result, you can find many fallout shelters throughout the country.

Where is the doomsday bunker located? ›

Vivos xPoint | Doomsday Bunker

Covering almost 3/4 the size of Manhattan, Vivos xPoint is the largest doomsday bunker community consisting of 575 bunkers. Located in South Dakota, these concrete and steel bunkers are strategically arranged to provide security and privacy.

Where should I live in the US during a nuclear war? ›

The most safe areas in the US in a nuclear war include the upper Midwest, Maine, West Texas, and multiple small pockets, usually in areas that don't have large populations. The most unsafe areas include most of the East Coast and anywhere near a major city, a key infrastructure location, or military installation.

How do you prepare for war at home? ›

Tips For Preparing For War As A Civilian
  1. Know Where To Find Shelter. ...
  2. Know What The Warning Signs Are. ...
  3. Stay informed on the situation. ...
  4. Have Your Emergency Kits Ready. ...
  5. Learn First Aid Basics. ...
  6. Have a Cash Reserve At Home. ...
  7. Stock Up On Essentials Now.

What is the chance of nuclear war? ›

A 1% chance of nuclear war in the next 40 years becomes 99% after 8,000 years. Sooner or later, the odds will turn against us. Even if we cut the risks by half every year, we can never get to zero.

Can anyone survive a nuclear war? ›

But the vast majority of the human population would suffer extremely unpleasant deaths from burns, radiation and starvation, and human civilization would likely collapse entirely. Survivors would eke out a living on a devastated, barren planet.

Does aluminum foil block nuclear radiation? ›

Beta particles travel appreciable distances in air, but can be reduced or stopped by a layer of clothing, thin sheet of plastic or a thin sheet of aluminum foil. Several feet of concrete or a thin sheet of a few inches of lead may be required to stop the more energetic gamma rays.

How far does radiation spread from a nuclear bomb? ›

The initial radiation pulse from a 1 KT device could cause 50% mortality from radiation exposure, to individuals, without immediate medical intervention, within an approximate ½ mile (790 m) radius. This radius increases to approximately ¾ mile (1200m) for a 10 KT detonation.

How far can radiation travel? ›

Those up to eight kilometres outside of it could suffer third-degree burns, and those up to 11 kilometres away may experience second- and first-degree burns. Anyone up to 85 kilometres away could experience temporary blindness or severe burns to the retina if looking directly at the blast.

Who has better weapons US or Russia? ›

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Russia has a stockpile of around 4,477 weapons in its nuclear arsenal. In comparison, the U.S. has around 3,708 warheads.

Can US shoot down nukes? ›

The US only has a limited ability to destroy an incoming nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, a study released last month by the American Physical Society concluded.

What is the range of Russian nuclear missiles? ›

Russia and weapons of mass destruction
Russian Federation
Current stockpile5,976 total
Current strategic arsenal1,588
Cumulative strategic arsenal in megatonnage663.5–801.5 (2016 est.) (variability because of uncertainty about SS-18 yields)
Maximum missile rangeIntercontinental up to 16,000 kilometers
9 more rows

How long do you have to wait after a nuclear bomb? ›

Because radioactive materials become weaker over time, staying inside for at least 24 hours can protect you and your family until it is safe to leave the area.

How cold is nuclear winter? ›

They found average global temperatures could drop between 15º and 25º Celsius, enough to plunge the planet into what they called “nuclear winter”—a deadly period of darkness, famine, toxic gases and subzero cold.

Can you survive an atomic bomb in a fridge? ›

A lot of people would die, of course: It's an A-bomb. But there are some easy steps that can feasibly save your life from the most fearsome weapon ever created. Oh, and spoiler alert, the answer isn't: crawl inside a fridge. RULE NUMBER ONE: Nuclear bombs aren't as deadly as you think.

How far away from a nuclear explosion can you survive? ›

At a distance of 40-45 miles, a person would have at most 3 hours after the fallout began to find shelter. Considerably smaller radiation doses will make people seriously ill. Thus, the survival prospects of persons immediately downwind of the burst point would be slim unless they could be sheltered or evacuated.

What should I do if a nuclear bomb is dropped? ›

Stay inside until authorities say it is safe to come out. Listen to the local radio or television for information and advice. Authorities may direct you to stay in your shelter or evacuate to a safer place away from the area. If you must go out, cover your mouth and nose with a damp towel.

How far does a nuclear bomb effect in miles? ›

The dangerous fallout zone can easily stretch 10 to 20 miles (15 to 30 kilometers) from the detonation depending on explosive yield and weather conditions.

Which cities are most likely to be nuked? ›

Redlener identified six cities that have the greatest likelihood of being attacked: New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston. Only New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles' emergency management websites give ways to respond to a radioactive disaster.

What should I stockpile for nuclear war? ›

It should include bottled water, packaged foods, emergency medicines, a hand-crank or battery- powered radio to get information in case power is out, a flashlight, and extra batteries for essential items. If possible, store supplies for three or more days.

What would you do if a nuclear war started? ›

Prepare for a nuclear attack by stocking up on non-perishable food, water, and first aid supplies, if possible. Seek shelter indoors immediately. Ideally, go down into the basement, or move to a centrally located room in the house. Stay away from windows.

How long would it take for radiation to clear after a nuclear war? ›

For the survivors of a nuclear war, this lingering radiation hazard could represent a grave threat for as long as 1 to 5 years after the attack. Predictions of the amount and levels of the radioactive fallout are difficult because of several factors.

What do you take for nuclear fallout? ›

Potassium iodide (KI) is a type of iodine that is not radioactive and can be used to help block one type of radioactive material, radioactive iodine (I-131), from being absorbed by the thyroid.

How far does radiation travel? ›

Mild, first-degree burns can occur up to 11 km (6.8 miles) away, and third-degree burns – the kind that destroy and blister skin tissue – could affect anyone up to 8 km (5 miles) away. Third-degree burns that cover more than 24 percent of the body will likely be fatal if people don't receive medical care immediately.

What material can survive a nuclear bomb? ›

Once you survive the initial blast, you're going to want as much dense material — concrete, bricks, lead, or even books — between you and the radiation as possible. Fallout shelters are your next safest bet, as they will provide the highest protection from this debris.

What is the chance of a nuclear war? ›

A 1% chance of nuclear war in the next 40 years becomes 99% after 8,000 years. Sooner or later, the odds will turn against us. Even if we cut the risks by half every year, we can never get to zero.

What is the fallout radius of a nuclear bomb? ›

The heat from a 1 KT detonation could cause 50% mortality, from thermal burns, to individuals within an approximate 0.4 miles (610 m) radius. This radius increases to approximately 1.1 miles (1800 m) for a 10 KT detonation.

What state is most likely to get nuked? ›

"There isn't a single jurisdiction in America that has anything approaching an adequate plan to deal with a nuclear detonation," he said. That includes the six urban areas that Redlener thinks are the most likely targets of a nuclear attack: New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

What US cities would be targeted in nuclear war? ›

The cities that would most likely be attacked are Washington, New York City and Los Angeles. Using a van or SUV, the device could easily be delivered to the heart of a city and detonated. The effects and response planning from a nuclear blast are determined using statics from Washington, the most likely target.

How long would it take a nuclear missile to reach the USA? ›

New START limits all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons, including every Russian nuclear warhead that is loaded onto an intercontinental-range ballistic missile that can reach the United States in approximately 30 minutes.

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