April 13, 2010
Mass Market Survival Shelters

Too poor to afford to build a survival shelter for 2012's Mayan calendar ending? Worry that an asteroid will show up to blast everyone on the Earth's surface? Or maybe you just fear a total societal collapse due to the bursting of the latest financial bubble. Finally deep underground condo shelters are coming to market.

In what may strike some as an idea taken from Dr. Strangelove, Del Mar, California-based company Vivos (company’s motto: “You can’t predict, but you can prepare”) is providing you and about 4,000 other people the chance to survive the end of the world. The company plans to build a network of 20 shelters near most major cities of the United States. Each 20,000-square-foot shelter, which can hold up to 200 people, would be located about five stories underground with walls two to three feet thick. The shelters would be stocked with a year’s supply of “gourmet foods,” as well as medical and dental centers and flat-screen TVs.

Each shelter costs about $10 million to build, and Vivos is selling space in the price range of about $50,000 per person. So far, about 1,000 applications have been received for space in the shelters.

I wonder what they do about oxygen. A disaster scenario that would require living underground for a year might involve serious problems with air quality.

The biggest problem I can see with such a shelter is that its location will be very well known. How to keep out would-be squatters who want to shoot their way in and force you out or kill you?

Another problem with extreme disasters: You've got to be able to reach your shelter once the severity of a disaster becomes known. If you get a couple days notice of a big asteroid strike and the asteroid doesn't happen to be aimed at a target near your shelter you'll have the time. But not all disasters are known about in advance.

If one is going to spend as much as $50k per person I would supply a shelter with more than 1 year's worth of food. The yearly cost of food (at least if bought before, say, a VEI 9 volcano halts most photosynthesis) is much lower than shelter cost. So why not store 3 or 4 years worth of food?

Another approach for those with more money would be to build a smaller and more secret hide-away. Use a small number of construction workers and pay them to work longer so that few people need be involved. That way fewer will know about the existence of the shelter WTSHTF. Though word still might get around. The biggest problem with a survival shelter is keeping it for your own once people are desperate to survive.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 April 13 10:35 PM  Disaster Survival

pseudonymous said at April 14, 2010 2:10 AM:

ever play fallout?

Matt Metcalf said at April 14, 2010 7:42 AM:

That's what I was thinking... I wonder if we can get Vivos to change it's name to Vault-Tec.

Dan said at April 14, 2010 7:45 AM:

This is silly enough it feels like a joke. The capital required to build something like this would be enormous, and I'm not sure there'd be that many customers. But I'll bite -- I live in Del Mar and will check this out if I can get a street address.

I wonder if you can still buy a pre-fab fallout shelter for the back yard? Did they stop building those in the 70's? Seems like in the event of a solar flare or killer asteroid, finding transportation to get to your fallout-condo-complex might be problematic :)


Kralizec said at April 14, 2010 8:25 AM:

When the Harkonnens built their survival shelter, their solution to the problem of potentially talkative workmen was to kill them all and mount their bodies in the hall between the living area and the utility area.

jam said at April 14, 2010 8:48 AM:

"The biggest problem with a survival shelter is keeping it for your own once people are desperate to survive."

Isn't that why it should also be stocked with guns, bullets and friends and family who know how to shoot? Violent scavengers should move on and look for easier prey once you start shooting back. And it might not be a bad idea to learn how to make a few primitive, close-range chemical weapons (mustard gas or chlorine gas) or incendiary substances (napalm, pitch) in case of an attack by a well-armed, persistent bandit group. ITSHTF, those who think unconcentionally will be most likely to survive.

PacRim Jim said at April 14, 2010 9:33 AM:

Once someone finds your air-intake vents, you're toast.

TonyD said at April 14, 2010 1:15 PM:

Yeah, I like your idea better Randall; best to build it on your own.

I would hire different workers to build different jobs at different times, nobody knowing how the whole operates. For example, I would bring in a different crew to work on the security for the shelter, another one to deal with construction, another one to build yet another security system on top of the security system, etc.

I guess for oxygen they would have filters, carbon dioxide convertors, and a whole stable of air-filtering plants at the greenhouse. Notice they don't mention what KIND of food they have stored?

What's important also is the electricity and power guarantees. How many generators will there be? Will there be limits to say, how many hours I can charge my Ipod or watch DVDs? $50,000 is a lot for a system that could as easily collapse.

Randall Parker said at April 14, 2010 7:08 PM:


Someone who happens to have relatives or valued friends who are construction workers could hire them and then include them in their list of people who'd live in the shelter.


If you are fairly young and can afford to build a shelter hire old construction workers who will die out before you expect you will need the shelter. They'll probably take the knowledge to the grave.

Another possibility: Hire temporary workers from far abroad. WTSHTF they probably won't be able to come from Poland or Latvia to reach your hide-out.


Where and what to build depends heavily on the disaster scenario. There are so many to choose from:

- Carrington Event solar flare that wipes out the electric grid.
- VEI 7 volcanic eruption that causes 2-3 years of crop losses.
- VEI 8 or above volcanic eruption. Photosynthesis way slows or stops.
- Financial panic with bank runs.
- Peak Oil aftermath with huge economic depression.
- Even worse scenarios for Peak Oil/Peak Coal involving electric grid and internet collapse.
- Nuclear war.

Some scenarios just require some savings and food stocked away. Others require living underground to survive years of freezing temperatures. Still others require fuel and electric generators. The amount of organized government varies enormously. In the extreme central government shrinks to insignificance and becomes basically select military groups in underground bunkers.

Vince said at April 14, 2010 8:49 PM:

If you're serious about securing yourself in the event of disaster, I suggest you read Emergency by Neil Strauss. Not as much practical information (though there is quite a few pointers) as there is very useful psychological preparation for what it really takes to prepare for sociological collapse.

John said at April 15, 2010 4:29 AM:

Who would want to live in a world where there was complete societal collapse and it was a war of all against all? What would be the point? It's bad enough living in the USA where the average working person can barely eek out a decent living-- NOT including health care or a decent retirement! America is already a country of diminishing social contract expectations, in spite of Obama's attempts. (Did anyone seriously expect him to alter the social and political and economic landscape to a serious degree?) Now imagine living in a world where people are fighting over the most basic natural resources and where you can't trust anyone and have to consider killing every human being you come across.... A very sad, disheartening image of the future, one without any point to existence. How would you get food? How would you get medical care? Hold a doctor hostage? How would you store food safely without electricity? You'd need solar panels or some kind of renewable energy source-- and you'd also need the technology to fix your energy source, to repair your electrical system, to fix your house, to store your food, etc., etc. And on top of all this you would have to be ready to kill all the other human beings around you and you would be able to offer very limited help to others because of your limited resources. A very sad and bleak picture of humanity without much point at all....Oh wait, it's the Libertarian view of the world!

Lono said at April 15, 2010 8:43 AM:


Perhaps it is just the Viking in me - but I find the idea of hunting down these vaults and raiding them to be quite appealing.

Although I'd prefer for the planet not to get all fubar'd I would find a Libertarian Live and let Die FREE SOCIETY to be preferable to the current oppresive and manipulated Kleptocracies and Oligarcies presently plaguing the planet.

I mean - no one on this damn planet has the right to tell me that I can't do - on my own property - what America's Founding Fathers did on a regular basis - but if I did even a fraction of what they used to do publicly - I would lose my house/carrer/family.

(and the ill-informed Sheeple would applaud)

How is that not completely and totally without reason!

Randall Parker said at April 15, 2010 6:40 PM:


I find the idea of mowing down the raiders with 60 cals quite appealing.


I want to live regardless of how screwed up the world is. If 6 billion people are unhappy I do not see that as a reason to also be unhappy. If 6 billion people are hungry I do not see that as a reason to be hungry. I do not feel a need for sympathy suffering. I've intellectually outgrown the sorts of beliefs that encourage the need to sacrifice for the world.

Where you can't trust anyone? I think I've got some good friends and family I could trust in a crisis to band together and try to survive as a group.

Be ready to kill those around you? Best to hide and not get noticed.

Hold a doctor hostage? If I could set up a really good refuge plenty of doctors would beg to join.

Really, lots of people would want to survive and would be willing to cooperate even if the larger scale society becomes much more dysfunctional.

REN said at April 16, 2010 10:23 PM:

During Russia's post communist collapse, workers continued to go to work without pay. Long Range Planning Civilized type People are not likely to devolve into hostile anarchy. It is not in their genes, and they are driven to be social animals. Even in a scenario with lack of food, many people will just choose to die rather than resort to violence. However, there are various tribal groups known for their violence. We know from twin studies that Genetics determines more than 80 percent of behavior. If you want to have a good chance at long term survival, then pick where you live and what kind of neighbors you have. Make friends with your neighbors, because collectively you can survive while independently you cannot. Political correctness will blind you to reality, so think beyond.

Randall Parker said at April 18, 2010 1:19 PM:


I agree. High trust, low crime, high social capital areas are far better bets if civilization starts to crumble for some reason. One should also consider food supply, energy, and other physical factors. But social factors are just as important.

Hope said at October 8, 2010 10:47 AM:

It does't do any good to buy these so called 10 million dollar bunkers, money will mean nothing when its all over with. The bible also speaks about greed and how we will destroy ourselves. What about the innocent, the small children who are humanities future. Does anyone think about saving them. I'm not well off, but I believe in those who less fortunate and believe that even we who have nothing can accomplish to survive without having to buy our lives back. We the less fortunate need to unite as a family so that we can do everything possible to save other lives beside our own. Our children will later benefit from this, and will be able to gain good morals for our future of the world.

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