Since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, it has been a boom time for builders of underground bunkers.
The phones are ringing off the hook with requests for quotes at companies that cater to nervous people who are willing to pay to protect their loved ones from existential threats such as a nuclear war between the world’s superpowers.
Ron Hubbard, the CEO of Atlas Survival Shelters in Texas, told Insider that he’s getting more calls than usual. “I’ve never seen it like this,” he said. “We’ve seen Russia invade a sovereign country. A lot of people who were on the fence are like, ‘Let’s do this.'”
“It all starts with a phone call,” Hubbard added. “They say, ‘What do you have in stock? What can we get really quick?’ There’s always a panic buy when things like this happen.”
The market for radiation protective face masks is also booming worldwide, according to a headline by ChattTenn Sports, a digital media company in Chattanooga. President Joe Biden said on Feb. 28 that Americans shouldn’t be concerned about nuclear war.
The website Ready.gov provides information on preparing for emergencies including mask wearing in the event of a nuclear explosion. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said the language is not new and is unrelated to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It was added during the first year of the covid-19 pandemic.
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Russian military forces have destroyed a new lab at the contaminated Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear meltdown in 1986. The lab was meant to improve the management of radioactive waste, the Ukrainian state agency responsible for the Chernobyl exclusion zone said on March 22. Russia attacked the plant at the beginning of the war.
Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory agency said that radiation monitoring around the plant no longer works.
Texas-based Rising S Bunkers usually sells two-to-six survival shelters a month at prices ranging from a $39,500 mini bunker to an $8.35million aristocrat bunker that can fit up to 44 people.
On the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, General Manager Gary Lynch told British newspaper The Sun that he sold five bunkers for prices ranging from $70,000 to $240,000. Lynch said he has had inquiries from all over the world from customers worried that the Russian invasion of Ukraine will spread and grow into a world war.
“I’ve gotten inquiries from Italy. I’ve gotten an inquiry from the United Kingdom, from Denmark, from Japan, from Canada, from the USA – and that’s just from over the weekend,” Lynch said. “The interest isn’t just isolated to the U.S., it’s everywhere.”
Customers are justifiably fearful, Lynch added. “Just look at what’s going on. (Vladimir Putin) is threatening nuclear war, saying it would be something the world has never seen. The world has seen Hiroshima and if what they are threatening is worse than that then, by all means, we should all be worried.”
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Despite the interest in underground bunkers, the concept may not resonate with hardcore preppers, according to Dr. Chad Huddleston, a professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“Out of all the preppers that I’ve talked to — hundreds of preppers — no one owns a bunker,” Huddleston told Insider. “They watch shows like ‘Doomsday Preppers’ and laugh at those people. Because it’s tactically silly. If you have a bunker and anyone finds out about it and there’s an actual societal collapse, then everyone’s going to go to your bunker.”
Doomsday preppers that Huddleston said he’s interviewed are mostly white men with jobs and families. They come from a spectrum of political backgrounds ranging from radical libertarians to extreme leftists and they are all very practical.
They don’t think they’ll survive a nuclear war and they wouldn’t want to, he said. “Basically their thoughts are, ‘If shit gets really bad, I’m just going to pop these pills and drink whiskey and watch it all burn.'”
Photo: In this Aug, 12, 2013 photo, the interior of an Atlas Survival shelter made of galvanized corrugated pipe is showcased with bunker beds at the plant in Montebello, Calif. The City Council in Menifee in Riverside County has approved a controversial ordinance that will allow residents to build underground bunkers on their properties. Survivalist types spend big money on these state-of-the-art, luxury shelters. But city officials are concerned about toxins in the soil, earthquakes, structural stability and whether police and first responders will be safe responding to emergency calls coming from people hiding out underground. Plus, they say, underground rooms could conceal criminal activity, such as drug manufacturing. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)