In the early sixties fallout shelter signs started showing up all over the country. This was a result of a desire on the part of the federal government to attempt to protect as much of the public as possible from the effects of a nuclear exchange with Russia.
Civil Defense fell under the jurisdiction of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (predecessor of FEMA) and they were tasked with studying the problem of sheltering the population. A series of surveys were mailed to every home in America in 1963 in an attempt to ascertain the amount of protection afforded by the average home. Detailed shelter plans and brochures on surviving an atomic exchange were available free of charge from the government. Many homeowners built shelters on their property or in their basement, or at least designated a safe area in the basement and stocked it with two weeks supply of food, water and other goods.
Business and industry was asked to volunteer space for shelters as it was determined that industrial and commercial buildings, especially those made out of brick and reinforced with steel, provided significantly more shelter than the average wood-framed home.
Once a business volunteered their space an on site survey would be done to determine if it was suitable, and if it was the capacity was calculated. Once qualified, the business would receive a "Fallout Shelter License" and would be provided with survival supplies for the specified number of people for two weeks.
While the government and some businesses (especially power and other utility companies) built actual fallout shelters hardened against blast and with the proper air filtration, the vast majority of the designated public shelters were ill-equipped to deal with atomic warfare. Most lacked any kind of air filtration for instance meaning that fallout would seep in and contaminate the occupants. Had an actual alert sounded those lucky enough to reach a dedicated public shelter would have most likely found a dark, dirty basement space and survival rations that had either been pilfered or eaten by rats! The space would have provided some protection from the blast wave and thermal effects of a nearby detonation but the resulting fires and fallout would have taken a huge toll.
To be properly hardened against a nuclear bomb a facility has to be designed to survive the tremendous shock wave and the over pressure from the blast front. It also most protect the occupants from the immediate thermal, xray and gamma ray effects and provide long term protection from the resulting fallout. Such shelters are extremely expensive.
Elsewhere on this site we have documented some serious shelters, both governmental and private, which include such features as huge springs under the foundation, EMP proof rooms, multi-ton blast doors, air filtration systems that can handle chemical and biological and nuclear environments. One ever had a two person morgue!
In addition to the hundreds of public fallout shelters throughout the state there were several nuclear-hardened shelters in Massachusetts. These were designed to provide Continuity of Government at both the federal and state levels or to protect business infrastructure and/or assets. Examples include the FEMA Region One bunker in Maynard, the Mass Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham, the former Bank of Boston record storage vault in Pepperell and at least four underground facilities built to support AT&T Long Lines and L3 defense communications routes. Links to these facilities and others are available on the left.
Newly discovered abandoned shelter in Wilbraham, MA:
Mines as shelters:
In the early sixties the federal government realized that existing mines and caves might serve as fallout shelters for large numbers of people. A national survey was conducted and in Massschusetts one suitable location was found:
The abandoned Emery Mines in Chester which was reportedly suitable to accommodate 1180 individuals.
Chelsea Bomb Shelter.