Chapter 19: Why doomsday shelters in missile silos are an achy breaky big mistakey

Oh, it seems like a beautiful idea: turning an abandoned missile silo into a super-secure doomsday shelter. Such a great thought that a number of people have done it, written about it, or put it in video games and movies.

Check out a story about one such Missile Silo of the Apocalypse:

Okay, you’ve got a giant, underground concrete structure that’s already built to military standards. Level after level that you can divide up and effectively defend. Add drinking water, fuel, generators, fridges, ginormous 4k televisions, a swimming pool, and stores of num-nums–bam, you’re set, as long as you can write a check for up to $3 million, right?

Here’s why all of that is, to be technical, a towering pile of stinking poppycock.

Reason No. 1: Your secret hidey hole is not secret

If they can’t find you, they can’t sneak into you secret bunker or cut you off from sources of food, fuel, and water. This is why being deep underground is so appealing.

This advantage is completely negated by having so much press and video online all about your Missile Silo of the Apocalypse.

No, they don’t reveal the exact location. Don’t need to–there are only so many missile silos in the United States, with a bazillion of them in Southern Canada (North Dakota and South Dakota). Oh look, here’s a map.

Map of western South Dakota with the locations of silos and control centers noted

Sure, there are silos in other states, and the Pentagon will not let you walk around active missile silos. They probably have land mines and razor wire and soldiers with rifles protecting those.

Old missile silos that got sold, now, will not be secret at all.

There will be all kinds of paper trails showing when a surplus missile silo went on sale, who bought them, and the location of that property. Even if all you knew was the name of the company selling missile silo condos, it would be easy to see what real estate they owned and exactly how much they pay in property taxes and where such properties were. In my little rural county, we have all that info available via a google maps thing and such. It’s fancy.

Even if you assume all of that isn’t true, the interets are powerful, and five random peoples on Reddit could watch some promos videos like the one above, examine them frame by frame and figure out exactly where the secret bunker is.

So yeah, your secret bunker is not so secret. Which makes it far less safe.

Reason No. 2: Giant target on your back

Imagine the apocalypse hitting tomorrow, and you are not wealthy enough throw a random million or three on a missile silo bunker.

Say you’ve got a family with two kids and no food. But you read about these silos, and there’s one twenty miles away, packed with drinking water and hot food and rich people who don’t have callouses on their hands and probably never served a tour in Afghanistan or Iraq, like you have, and yeah, you’re getting desperate.

Plenty of people will look at these missile silos as a great place to loot or take over.

With all the press and attention, the locations will not be a secret to locals. They will have known about the missile silos back when the military ran them, and chances are a lot of people have family and friends who worked to build these monstrous stuctures, or worked inside them before retiring from the service and settling down nearby.

Locals won’t just know about your bunker. They will be coming for it.

Reason No. 3: You won’t reach the missile silo

I will bet you my first-born and the title to my house that 99.9 percent of people who can afford to drop a bazillion dollars on a missile silo bunker 10 miles west of Nowhere, North Dakota, do not actually live anywhere near that place.

When things are normal, sure, they can fly in and spend a long weekend play-acting their Mad Max fantasies in the bunker before flying back to a mansion or yacht or vacation home in Palm Beach.

Once an apocalypse actually hits, those planes will not be flying. The highways will become impassable. You won’t be able to hike through 500 or 1000 miles of wilderness with your Louis Vuitton go-bag and make it all the way to Nowhere, North Dakota.

The zombies will feast upon your corpse before you make it 30 miles on foot.

Reason No. 4: Best-case scenario is still bad, you die, the end

Say all of the above doesn’t happen. The locals have their memories of all local missile silos wiped from their brains by the Men in Black, and Scottie transports your rich butt straight from wine tasting in the Hamptons to the living room of your fancy bunker.

Congratulations. You delayed death by months, maybe even a year. Two if you’re truly lucky. Because the fuel will run out, meaning the electricity–hot water, hot food, hot showers, all of that–will also run out. Your bright, comfortable bunker will turn into a dark and cold hole in the earth.

Reason No. 5: Better uses for a mountain of money

If you are part of the 1 percent, and have money to burn on a missile silo condo that you’ll never use, there are smarter ways to blow a million or three.

As we said before, the wealthiest people–in America and around the world–tend to live in large, coastal cities. New York, LA, Miami, London, Tokyo.

There’s an ocean, and beaches, and boats.

A boat is a great idea for the apocalypse. Especially if it’s (a) a sailboat, which would work even after fuel ran out, and (b) you live nearby. Which you likely do.

If there’s an apocalypse, you have zero worries about zombies and such after sailing out and dropping anchor. Easy peasy, lemon squeazy. Fish for your protein. Get into eating kelp and such. Grow some lemons or whatever on board to ward off scurvy.

Your main worry, long-term, will be pirates. Invest some of that one to three million into pirate-proofing measures. A flamethrower or three, and some long-range guns. Go wild.

Reason No. 6: This entire option is not an option for 99.99 percent of us

I started writing this series with the intention of being brutally practical.

Blowing one to three million on a missile silo condo is not just impractical, but wasteful and not an option for regular human beings like you and me.

If you can casually lay down a few million like that, email me and let’s spitball other fun ideas for spare cash sitting around. I HAVE MANY.

So what is smart?

Multiple options. Chances are, you drive to work. Could be 5 miles or 50 miles. You need an option near home and another option near work.

Cheap or free is best. Your options don’t need to be fancy. They need to be close enough and good enough.

Sustainable is key. Any solution that relies on fuel, ammunition, or electricity is not sustainable.

Let’s work though the problem. You need shelter, fire, food, tools, and medicine. Enough to get you through the transition from civilization to Barter Town.

Yet any such shelter is temporary.

Surviving any sort of apocalypse means returning to a nomadic life of hunting, gathering, and looting. Yes, the looting part is the most fun in movies and books. Just think about this, though. The only way you avoid nomadic life is to master farming. Unless your secret bunker has a working farm, stocked with crops and animals and equipment, you’re gonna be on the move.

Here are three examples of what would work for somebody on the move. First is a log cabin in the woods, hopefully near running water, as a long-term home base maybe to survive the winter after you stock up all spring and summer.

Second is a cheap sailboat, letting you be a nomad from the start. Get your WATERWORLD on.

Third is mountain bikes, backpacks, and tents, letting you and a team be mobile and able to set up camp anywhere.

What’s definitely not smart is a missile silo bunker. Though this story does tempt me into selling spots at my secret series of Survival Cabins in the Olympic Mountains.

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