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This is one of the best illustrations I’ve seen of a fallout shelter from the 1950s.  The dark lighting and grim, industrious nature of the family reflect the way a real family might have behaved during an attack.

Michael Amrine, who edited the well-regarded Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, wrote the text and provides sane, sober, and completely do-able advice.

Popular Science styled this home shelter as more than just a shelter:  they called it a “family foxhole” or “refuge.”

Unlike other bomb shelters, no major building was advocated–just some lally columns to support joists, bracing, shutters.  This was all about locating the right spot in your basement and how to stock it, not about building a new shelter from scratch in the backyard.

Click to Enlarge to 1125 x 762 px:

Home Basement Shelter Foxhole 1951

Home Basement Shelter Foxhole 1951

Source:  Popular Science March 1951

In addition to small residential bomb shelters built in backyards or in basements, some communities planned–and in some cases, built–larger shelters for the community.

Most community bomb shelters were based in existing buildings–church or school basements, in particular.  But this cutaway drawing shows a bomb shelter under a bridge built for this express purpose.

Click to Enlarge Image:

Community Bomb Shelter Under Bridge, 1962

Community Bomb Shelter Under Bridge, 1962

Source:  LIFE January 12, 1962

Home Fallout Shelter 1960

Home Fallout Shelter 1960

Home-based nuclear fallout shelters combined everything that magazines needed in the 1960s to attract readers:  fear, home remodeling, and the opportunity for producing great cutaways.

Just going into your basement during nuclear attack would decrease your chance of radioactive exposure to 10% of the exposure if you had stayed outside.

By undertaking some pretty major home remodels, all located in your basement and all eventually unused, you could shrink that statistic another ten-fold.

Source:  Popular Mechanics October 1960

Nuclear Bomb Shelter Cutaway 1961

Nuclear Bomb Shelter Cutaway 1961

This cutaway of a home-based nuclear bomb shelter from 1961 was designed by the Office of Civil Defense to be built for less than $280 in materials.

Source:  Popular Mechanics December 1961

Basement Bomb Shelter, 1961

Basement Bomb Shelter, 1961

In 1961, LIFE extolled the benefits of building a basement bomb shelter out of pre-cast concrete blocks.

This cutaway drawing shows how the homeowner would have situated the shelter in a corner of the basement where it had no windows.

The article estimated materials cost not to exceed $200.  It was estimated that radiation within the shelter would be about 1% of radiation outside.

As a final warning, the article mentioned that, should the nuclear warhead hit within 10-15 miles of you, the house might be blown down onto the shelter and catch fire.

Source: LIFE Sep 15, 1961