Faux Fallout Facts

The term “Fallout Shelter” is often misused and interchanged with other terms.

Here are two myths about the fallout shelter that need to be debunked.


Fallout shelters were bomb shelters

This is probably one of the most widely misguided facts about fallout shelters.

The terms “fallout shelter” and “bomb shelter” are widely interchanged with one another, but both are very different.

A “bomb shelter” is designed to protect its occupants from the physical force of a bomb blast.

Fallout shelters were meant only to shield occupants against the effects of fallout, which is the collection of radioactive particles created and dropped after a nuclear bomb blast. Few fallout shelters were also bomb shelters, or would have offered such protection.(Apparently, and understandably, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham was designed to protect its occupants against a severe bomb blast. No official word on fallout protection, however).

Had a nuclear bomb blast occurred in any given US city, the fallout shelters in that city would have essentially been useless. Fallout shelters were only to protect against fallout particles that moved through wind from the city or town where the bomb was dropped to other cities. Sadly, occupants of a fallout shelter in the city where the bomb was dropped probably would have been trapped when the building collapsed from the blast, or worse if they were near ground zero. .

Fallout shelters were only in basements

Not all fallout shelters were in basements of buildings. Fallout shelter space in buildings was sometimes in interior corridors, and on upper floors. According to old Civil Defense literature, more than half of available fallout shelter space in the US was on the upper floors of buildings. Although basements were often selected for their available space and protection, inner corridors of upper floors in buildings was also used as shelter space. Here in Boston, one of the largest fallout shelters in the city was the John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse in Post Office Square. With a listed capacity of over 10,000, most of that space was in the corridors of the upper floors of the building, as indicated by signs in the stairwells with arrows pointing both up and down (the building underwent an extensive renovation in 2008-2009 and it is suspected all signs have been removed). The same goes for the Suffolk Superior Courthouse on Pemberton Square; there, interior signs remained on the first and upper floors as of 2011 and are assumed to still be there today. The basement contained old jail cells and was unsuitable as a fallout shelter.


Fallout Five Zero


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