Evaluating NBC Shelter Sites

A letter to a client


Dear Sir,

Planning and evaluation at this stage is wise, as sometimes, the property is not suitable for a shelter.  We recently made a similar trip in another state for a client who really wanted two large pipe shelters, and of course, we wanted to supply them for him. However, the site was not viable despite it’s beautiful lakeshore location. It was an unhappy outcome for both us and for the customer, but we suggested he pursue a concrete option located near the street.  The overarching goal is to get the client into a shelter, even if it isn’t ours. 

My fee for such a trip is $500.00 for a two-day trip, to be waived if Utah Shelter receives an order for a shelter.  Any information we can glean on the site would be helpful, such as water table depth, soil type, underground power and gas lines, etc.  We will look at equipment access, staging areas for the equipment, crane, semi-truck delivering the shelter, crushed rock and road base backfill materials, etc.  

On theWsite above, it was a very good thing we came out to walk the topography because there was NO WAY to get a low-boy flat bed trailer with a 24,000 pound shelter from the road to the proposed site without $100,000.00 in modifications to the client’s property or floating the shelters in on a barge.  The property’s slope from the highway exceeded 40 degrees…and would have been a nightmare featuring a high-centered trailer blocking a two lane highway. Getting empty trucks OUT of the property would have been nearly impossible.  The client and contractors need to know exactly what’s involved before pulling the trigger on a project like this.

Richard Lowe is a contractor located in the UK that is breaking the ice for good steel shelters in his area. Utah Shelter has been forthright in sharing as much information with him as possible to get him up and running in this field. We have no financial interest in his efforts….we just want him to be able to offer safe, effective shelters for the citizens of the UK. We do get enquiries from Brits who would like one of our steel shelters, but the shipping from the American West to the UK would prove costly. Better to have someone there that can turn them out on UK soil.

In the late 1980s, Sharon Packer and I built our first shelter…an 8’ x 40’ corrugated steel pipe unit.  She was not a nuclear engineer at the time, and we had precious little accurate information to go on.  No one built steel shelters in the USA.  We also didn’t know that the U.S. Government had already tested corrugated steel blast shelters at the Nevada Test Site with nuclear explosives. It was our first effort.  I had help at my aerospace employer, with over 100 engineers of all stripes at my disposal who gave me free engineering on structural issues and in designing my own blast valves.  We didn’t know we could buy torture-tested valves and air handlers from Switzerland.  An seasoned engineer there had worked on the Atlas missile program and understood blast valve design…so I fabricated my own. 

A year after we had completed our shelter, we ran into a civil defense advocacy organization called Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, which featured among its members five key nuclear weapons physicists. They often presented at conferences and their careers were all fascinating. We lost no time becoming fast friends with them, and got them to visit our shelter for a day.  They loved our initial effort, and gave us suggestions to improve the shielding factors of the entrances, blast doors, deck, etc.  Edwin York, who ran the photographic section of the Manhattan Project and was a nuclear engineer himself, gave us over 700 hours of his time and expertise….he re-wrote our brains on subjects ranging from weapons effects, command and control of nuclear forces, how ICMBs work, fusing and arming systems, warhead design, and most importantly, what happens to buried structures when exposed to the direct effects of a nuclear explosion. Mr. York had photographed and filmed every U.S. atmospheric nuclear test, starting with the Trinity shot in 1945. He also designed many of the experiments on the ground….housing, factory buildings, gas stations, and most importantly, several underground shelters. York knew exactly what we very much wanted to learn. [He inspired Sharon to go back to school and earn her masters degree in nuclear engineering. Ed York drove a thousand miles to help her defend her thesis at the University of Utah.] He blew up a lot of things.  While it was fun and interesting to be around Edward Teller (initiator of the Manhattan Project and credited with fathering the hydrogen bomb), it was York who was intimately involved with testing and the evaluations of the aftermath. He was our guy.  Sadly, we were the only shelter fabricators, other than a brief showing from a fiberglass shelter company that had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with these figures. By 2004, they had all passed.  Only Dr. Lowell Wood remains, as he didn’t start working with Teller until the early 1960s at Los Alamos. Today, there is not a single engineer at the national labs that has actually seen a nuclear explosion.  Only films.  Lowell Wood is the acting chairman of the now-dormant Congressional Commission to Assess The Threat of EMP To The United States. I am attaching Wood’s statement to the House Armed Services Committee on electromagnetic pulse and it’s implications to western civilization.

If the appropriate shelter is a corrugated steel type, I can advise you, alone.  If the client desires a concrete shelter, Sharon Packer, our staff nuclear engineer should also come…she has more experience in this area than I do, and the ventilation systems in more complex concrete shelters requires someone that knows what they are about.  She has consulted on shelters costing (so far!) $17 million. That’s over my head!  My personal shelter, a 10’ x 50’ corrugated steel pipe shelter, runs around $74,000.00. 

Thank you for thinking of us…we hope we can be of service. 

Best regards, 

Paul Seyfried
Utah Shelter Systems, Inc. 


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