Forget Swimming Pools, Homeowners Opting for Admission to Doomsday Bunkers

With real-life doomsday scenarios like mega-tsunamis and nuclear meltdown making headlines, companies marketing survival shelters have seen a spike in interest in recent months. A few days ago, CNN Money ran an article on a new type of “economy class” doomsday bunker for thrifty folks who still want to hedge their bets against catastrophe.

These pared-down bunkers are part of a 100,000 sq. ft. underground facility called “Vivos 1000.” The four-bunk compartments cost $9,950 and promise customers six months of “autonomous” survival. Units in the Vivos company’s high-end bunker complexes—which feature comforts like pool tables and stocked wine cellars—sell for $25,000 to $35,000 and promise clients survival for up to one year. Although these luxury units were selling steadily, the recent uptick in interest spurred the company to develop a budget-priced model and thus, the Vivos 1000 was born.

Vivos and a slew of competitors market their survival shelters as protection against a host of apocalyptic scenarios, including tsunamis, nuclear accidents, volcanic eruptions, asteroids, epidemics, solar flares and instability in the Middle East. Even though the recent Rapture predictions proved false, many people still wonder if the Mayans were on to something with their doomsday prediction for 2012.

Editor’s Note: After reading the article, 12 Things that the Mainstream Media is Being Strangely Quiet About (via The Daily Crux), I took stock of our own bug out bags and various stockpiles. As they say, plan for the worst; hope for the best

Some shelter companies market family-sized backyard bunkers, but others, like Vivos, are counting on filling up entire post-apocalyptic communities. Vivos has more than five 200-occupant shelters in the works around the U.S., as well as a mega-shelter for up to 1,000 survivalists in Nebraska.

Shelling out thousands of dollars for a berth in one of these bunkers has a big downside: access. During a “life extinction event,” clients may not be able to reach their costly safe haven. If transportation routes collapse, food and fuel become scarce, and anarchy reigns, getting to Nebraska might not be a fun-filled road trip.

Bugging In

In the event of a catastrophe, sheltering in place might be a more practical solution. Many websites, including the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency-sponsored site, provide basic information on sheltering in place and disaster preparedness.

Selecting a home with a basement that can be utilized as a bunker in times of emergency is a practical choice. There is no need to invest in an off-site facility when a basement bunker can be reinforced and stocked to the specifications of the homeowner. Access in an emergency is simple, and there is the added comfort of being at home during chaotic or uncertain times.

If your home does not have a basement that can be used as a shelter, you may be able to build a bunker elsewhere on your property. Such shelters can serve double-duty as a root cellar or wine cellar while providing a safety zone during an emergency or natural disaster.

My family had such a shelter when I was a child, and although it was ostensibly used as a root cellar for potatoes and preserves, I know my military-minded father had its other purpose in mind when he built it.

Safe Rooms

A safe room is an option for a home that lacks both a basement and sufficient outdoor space to build a below-ground shelter. Often designed to withstand high winds, a safe room can also be used during a home invasion or other emergency.

A safe room can be as simple as a closet retrofitted with an exterior-grade door and a heavy lock, or as elaborate as a ventilated structure reinforced with concrete, Kevlar, or steel sheeting.

Several websites, including, offer valuable tips on safe room construction. An integrated safe room is convenient and economical because it does not require the construction of a separate shelter. A home’s safe room can be a bathroom, storage closet or other room that has been reinforced, anchored and stocked–but that still blends seamlessly into the home’s floor plan.

Any shelter should be equipped with emergency supplies including food, water, flashlights, blankets, first aid supplies, sanitation supplies, a portable or fixed toilet, and any self-defense items deemed necessary by the occupants.

Some homeowners are happy to forgo a new swimming pool or family vacation in order to pay for a safe haven for their family. Recent events prompted one family to take $20,000 they had set aside as a down-payment on a new home and instead purchase a space in a Vivos stronghold.

Will this decision turn out to be a wise move or a personal-finance cataclysm? We’ll just have to wait until 2012 to find out.

This article was written by contributing author Laurel Gray.


  1. I don’t know about all that, but it makes sense to have some food and water stored away in case of a disaster, job loss or water problems in the area that can occur in daily life. We have life insurance, home owners insurance and auto insurance, food and water insurance seems even more practical.

  2. We kept the 100 cans of dried food that my dad stored for our family in 1963- just to remind us. Our family struggled to eat that year- but there was plenty if the world ended.

  3. This is a great article and I really like your point about the practicality of using a good basement (instead of a down-payment for your home!) to establish a sheltering place. It is so interesting how fear can motivate us to spend money on things that seem to just be reinforcing our emotional health! The fiendish “madmen” seem to have found out how to get our planning friends to exchange their financial-security for life-security.

  4. Those stronghold bunkers seem to be a little excessive.
    in the event of an apocolymptic event, one would have to determine if the quality of life in a “bunker” would be worth 6-months of survival vs. the cost of the “bunker” and the probablility of the event happening and being able to safely make it to your “bunker”.
    Not for me, but to each their own.

    • Agreed. For us, we make basic preparations in our own household that would allow us to bug out or bug in, depending on the scenario. And let’s be honest, most of us prep for the most likeliest of scenarios in our region given the resources we have to devote to preparing. If I had unlimited resources, I might just build my own bunker and stock it (as I suspect many billionaires have done). Even if I don’t get wiped out by a TEOTWAWKI event, I could pass this along to future generations for some added insurance.

      • The idea of sharing space with 200 strangers – and their unknown issues – and underground….. does not sound like my kind of survival….

        And what kind of electric system do those things have ?… If we get an EMP exploded over us, nothing with a computer chip in it is going to work and that could get interesting below ground – unless everything operates manually.

        Shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis all over again. That was enough to go thru.

        • The EMP attack is my greatest worry as well, because of our dependence on technology. We had friends and family in and around Tuscaloosa, AL, and in the days following the devasting tornadoes they were unable to buy food, water and ice (a much-desired commodity for preserving food) without having cash. The stores had no electricity, but a few had generators running their refrigerated compartments and ice machines, but no ability to accept credit card payments as datalinks to merchant banks and processors were down.

          Those with cash were able to trade for food and supplies. Those with only a credit or debit card went home empty handed. Imagine if that scenario played out over the entire country.

          • another advantage of small town living – the local merchants here would accept a man’s signature in lieu of cash… 🙂

            Again, a good case for having storage… provided ones storage was still standing and not whipped away by the tornado.

            I think in case of an EMP, cash would only work for a few days, til folks figured it out…. then ammo will be the currency 🙂

  5. Doomsday bunker? What a dumb idea! I like the idea of preparing your own place, such as a basement, in case of an emergency but if there was a catastrophic event what happens after the 6 months in the bunker? They throw you out!? Assuming that you would survive the 6 months with several hundred strangers, barring any contagious diseases or sicknesses. In the event of a disaster, I’d rather take my chances on my own in my own space with my own supplies.

    • I’m with you! I much prefer the idea of hunkering down at home. The aftermath of Katrina and the recent tornadoes should be enough to convince anyone that having adequate supplies on hand for a minimum of 7-10 days at home is a must.

  6. Interesting topic, with real merits for sure. It’s good to think about such things, particularly natural disasters which can and do happen.

    That being said, a luxury bunker with a stocked wine cellar is quite an funny concept! Not sure how luxury matters in such a situation, or why a customer would rationally think along those lines. But, that’s the beauty of marketing, customer interests aren’t always rational

  7. This article was quite a surprising read, but it does seem a little extreme to me, probably because I’m from the UK and natural disasters are few and far between!

    Having said that, if you do live in a such an area that natural disasters happen quite frequently then I can see some people trying it out. For me personally I would just stick with preparing my own personal place where my and my family would feel safe, I think that’s as far as I would go.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. I think it’s really smart to be ready for natural disasters to a certain extent. Can goods, flashlight, water, but bunkers?

    My mom said something funny and wise when we were talking about fears of the end of the world.

    She said “It’s been the end of the world since I was a little girl!” “Look at me I’m an old lady, and you guys (pointing to me and my brother) are grown!”

    • Sorry if I can’t take this article real seriously. I agree that keeping some bottled water, canned goods and cash on hand in case of a natural disaster is wise. But why spend money on dubious shelter from events that may never come to pass and would be impossible or miserable to survive if they did? I didn’t want to live through a nuclear war back in the eighties when it was far more likely, and I wouldn’t want to survive a biological or chemical disaster now. Anyone considering investing in something like this should watch the English film “Threads” or America’s knockoff “The Day After.” You’d be better off getting vaporized while enjoying the pool you bought instead.

  9. Are you all serious??? You are serously paranoid. Where I live; Brisbane we just had the worst floods on record, followed by cyclones, 3/4 of the state was an emergency zone. Everyone came together. there were 10’s of thousands of volunteers who helped with the evacuation and clean up efforts. No one starved even though food deliveries where stopped for a fortnight. No one got shot, no one had to “bug in”. Natural disasters bring communities together not tear them appart.

    • Maybe that is the case in Brisbane, and it may be true in some areas in the US, but more often than not people tend to loot and take advantage of others when order breaks down.

  10. I wouldn’t want to live my life in a bunker for 6 months–no matter what. What good is life without friends, family, and purpose. I don’t want to live my life in total fear either.

    I plan for emergencies with water, food, emergency supplies, and the like but won’t buy a bed in a bunker or build one in my back yard.

  11. Here’s a surprisingly relevant article from NPR:

    Some political science professor who lived in Louisiana in 2005 found that people who have good relationships with their neighbors tend to fare the best in disasters. Sounds reasonable to me.

    A bunker in another state filled with strangers sounds like a bad idea. A strong network of neighbors that you can rely on, regardless of bunker ownership, and I’ve found that it’s just a better way to live in good times and bad.

  12. Great article. There is nothing paranoid about being prepared to meet any scenario. One only has to reflect on the aftermath of Katrina and the government’s response and, more recently, the devastation in Japan, to realize that having a plan in place is paramount.
    I can’t tell you how many people were without the most basic of supplies during the horrendous ice storm a few years ago in Massachusetts. Some communities were without power for nearly a month and no one had a generator. In fact, many traveled out of state to get one. The lucky ones got them, the others had to rely on neighbors or emergency shelters.

    If we have car, home, and health insurance why do some find it odd to have food and supply insurance as well?

    Great article!

  13. This article reminded me of the movie “The Road”. The father and son found a shelter well stocked with food and supplies to keep from starving. Outside the shelter it was a man eat man world.