Glancing Back: The Sky Is Falling
Duck, Cover, and Ventilate In the middle of the last century, Americans were worried about being attacked with nuclear weapons, including short- and long-range missiles.
Preparing for a possible nuclear war between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Americans built fallout shelters in their basements or backyards.
The October 16, 1961 issue of The News focused on two key concerns about fallout shelters: ventilation and filtration.
Gerald Simon de Montfort, who had been researching and building shelters for de Montfort Associates for several years prior to 1961, said that not all shelters provided mechanical ventilation and positive filtration of introduced air, but they were strongly recommended in order for the shelter to do its duty.
De Montfort also said that the blower should be designed for both electrical and manual operation, as it was reasonable to assume that electric power might not be available to run the blower. The blower should also be big enough to provide air sufficient for the occupants’ needs, without having to run it constantly.
For the best results and optimum safety, he stated that air should be filtered through an absolute-type filter to get rid of radioactive particles, bacteriological agents, and smoke. An activated charcoal-type filter should be used to remove other toxic chemicals.
Filtering should be done outside of the living area of the shelter, cautioned de Montfort. Because of this concern, most plans for shelters have an entranceway that runs between 8-in. concrete block walls or 1-in. lead sheathing at a 90-degree angle to the living area doorway, he said. The supply blower and filters are placed in the entranceway so that if any radiation gets into this area, it won’t permeate the shield wall to the living quarters.
He believed that inexpensive mechanical filters were available, but they were not usually designed to handle 100% outside air.
De Montfort also endorsed some kind of dehumidification system for the shelter. If an independent power supply existed, he thought the electrical refrigerant type was best. However, he noted that a chemical-type dehumidifier was also usable, though slow acting.
For ducts, de Montfort advocated 3- or 4-in. heavy, galvanized plumber’s pipe with flexible connections inside the shelter to connect with the blower.
In a related article, the importance of proper air supply in a fallout shelter was brought to the fore, when two men came close to death due to lack of oxygen.
William Kennedy and Robert Moore went into a shelter for five days to test psychological and sanitary conditions. On the second day, the oxygen ran out, and Kennedy contacted his wife by intercom to tell her that he was having trouble breathing.
Kennedy got the door open and collapsed on the ground. The men were taken to a hospital, given oxygen, and then released.
Publication date: 10/15/2001