When compared to other Western nations, the U.S. ranks at the bottom of the barrel for bunker and nuclear fallout shelter readiness, says geographer Dr. Bradley Garrett. Garrett, author of ‘Bunker: Building For The End Times,’ tells Glenn that in the United States, politicians, CEOs, and others in positions of power are likely the only ones with a secured spot in the few bunkers available. But that doesn’t mean individual Americans shouldn’t also take steps to prepare for possible, future catastrophes. Unfortunately, he says, there are some major events — like an EMP — that are incredibly difficult to be ready for. But there are still some steps you can take NOW to be as prepared as possible...
Below is a rush transcript that may contain errors
GLENN: Brad Garrett is joining us. Hi, Brad, how are you, sir?
BRAD: Good morning, Glenn, I'm doing great. How are you?
GLENN: I'm good.
I'm shocked at the number that there's only 3.7 million Americans that would consider themselves preppers.
I would have thought that was at least 5 percent, 10 percent.
BRAD: You know, I think that number is a bit misleading. Because a lot of people don't want to identify themselves as preppers. So I think that's a problem with polling.
BRAD: Because if you -- if you ask people, if you switch that question around, and you say, you know, can you survive for 30 days on your own? Like imagine there's no government infrastructure, you know, water is down. Power is down. There's no grocery stores. If you ask people the question that way. Then about 11.7 million people, that they can survive for 30 days.
So I think it's a problem of labeling. Just like in the past, people didn't want to be called survivalists. People also don't want to be called preppers. It has a negative connotation for some reason.
GLENN: Negative. You know, it used to be called self-reliance. Are you self-reliant?
BRAD: Yeah. Of course. 150 years ago, everyone was self-reliant. We've become increasingly dependent, on the state. And less dependent on our neighbors, which I think is the bigger problem.
GLENN: You know, I -- because I consider myself. Actually, I go back and forth. I consider myself a prepper. Because I'm more prepared than most of my friends. However, I just know that there's something like, oh, crap. I forgot batteries.
There will be something that it all falls apart, you know what I mean?
BRAD: Absolutely. There's always something. This is why, I spent a lot of time in Salt Lake City, when I was writing my book Bunker.
And the church of Ladder Day Saints up there. They're incredible preppers, and they run through scenarios all the time.
So they will -- you know, they'll practice an emergency. They'll work through their food stores.
They've practiced calling everyone on their phone chain, making sure the neighbors are available. That's what we should all be doing. You know, if you do a dry run, then you realize what you're lacking.
GLENN: Yeah. Were you allowed in the tunnels underneath Salt Lake?
BRAD: No. I haven't tried.
GLENN: Oh, you should have called me.
I'm in. It's -- it's incredible.
BRAD: No. Don't feel bad.
GLENN: Yeah. It's absolutely incredible.
The -- they have enough food storage and everything else, for the entire city. In case there's a problem.
It's really incredible. Really incredible.
BRAD: That's fantastic.
I have to say, it was the easiest way of writing my book. A lot of preppers, particularly preppers that are building high level luxury private bunkers, did not want people to necessarily know where they were.
GLENN: Sure. Right.
BRAD: Or what was inside them. But when I showed up in Salt Lake City. They were open arms for the most part. Just let me into all their facilities.
I saw the canning facilities, where they fill those number ten cans, with pasta and oatmeal and everything else.
It was a quite a thing. But, yeah. I didn't make it to the tunnel.
GLENN: Tell me, since we have had this nuclear warning, it's my understanding, that there are countries.
Russia is one of them.
I think Switzerland is one. I think the United Kingdom is one.
Where they're going back and looking at their old Cold War bunkers. And in Switzerland, I believe they're being mandated by government.
You have to go update the food and water in them. Is that true?
BRAD: That is true. And it's kind of ironic, that the bunkers that were built by the Soviet Union in Ukraine. Have been sheltering people and saving probably tens of thousands of lives, at this point.
But that has encouraged the rest of Europe, to sort of reassess their position in terms of bunkers. Switzerland is the most protected country on earth.
Aside of maybe North Korea. We have no idea what's going on.
BRAD: So there is space for 102 percent, of the population.
Which is -- which is kind of astounding. You know, they've actually got 300,000 private bunkers, inside Switzerland.
And then 5,000 public shelters. And most of those are not just fallout shelters, but blast shelters. So those are nuclear biological, and chemical shelters. That the population can take. Can take shelter in.
And, you know, there's actually enough space, that if someone was visiting. You know, the tourist could end up in those bunkers as well.
GLENN: That is crazy.
So where are we on the scale of these western nations and nations that would be affected by this nuclear threat?
Where are we in taking it seriously, and as a government, and preparing people for it?
BRAD: Absolutely terrible. I mean, the US and UK are probably at the bottom of the list. In terms of preparations. And that goes back in the United States, to the Cold War. So there was a -- a team of nuclear strategists, that included Herman Kahn.
BRAD: That thought about what it would take to -- he wrote this amazing book on thermal nuclear war.
GLENN: Thermal nuclear war. I have a copy of it. It's great.
BRAD: Absolutely incredible.
GLENN: Yeah, it's nuts.
BRAD: He ran these scenarios. About what it would take to invocate the US population into bunkers, if they were to be an all-out nuclear exchange. And the cost of construction of those bunkers, essentially exceeded GDP as a country for a year.
Yeah, so that's why the Kennedy administration. I think it was in '63, Kennedy made the speech, where he basically said, you know, it -- it's the responsibility of -- of each person. Each family. Each community, to take preparation upon yourselves.
And that's the path that we've been going down, since then.
And what -- I think what frustrates a lot of Americans, is that we now know, that as that speech was being made. The government was hard at work, constructing bunkers for themselves, for their families, for their aides. So, you know, we have a model in the United States, also in the UK, where if you're a politician, if you're a CEO, if you're, you know, someone with influence and power, you're probably going to get space in a bunker. But everyone else is left out to dry.
And the -- so that has triggered in the United States, this -- this incredible movement in the last ten years or so, of private citizens building their own bunkers.
And some of these even rival, the government bunkers that were build during the Cold War.
GLENN: So why did you write this book?
Are you -- I mean, are you feeling we're going need to bunkers? Or what -- what was your motivation here?
BRAD: The bunker is really a metaphor. For thinking about our deteriorating geopolitical situation.
Thinking about our deteriorating, just social situation, within the country.
BRAD: I -- when I -- when I began writing the book, I was interested -- I was interested in the topic from a sociological perspective. I wanted to know who the private players were that were building these bunkers.
What they were worried about. And whether there's any credence to it. And I have -- since I wrote the book, purchased the cabin in the woods.
And a five acre ranch. I have two different locations, that were connected by a four-we'll drive dirt track. So I can move between them, without going on major roads.
I -- most of the people that I spoke to, who were serious about their preparations told me, that the concerns they had weren't just speculative. Right?
That they felt we were on the precipice of something happening. And keep in mind, I started writing this book in 2017. I finished it in 2021.
So I had a lot of interviews with people, telling me that a pandemic was inevitable. That we were overdue for one.
That they happened with regularity, every hundred years or so.
And then it happened, and so that made me go back and reassess all the other things, that people were telling me, that seemed slightly conspiratorial. Or like, like some kind of magical thinking.
And then when I went and reassessed those claims, they seemed to hold a lot more weight, than I expected them to.
GLENN: Yeah. And so you became -- you became one of us. Anyway.
BRAD: I did.
GLENN: Sorry about that, Brad.
BRAD: But I think to your point, you know, we're just going back to an earlier time.
BRAD: Or it's taking on a different kind of mindset.
Where you can't just go on Amazon and click a button, or get the thing you need tomorrow.
You need to have it now, because you might not be able to get it when things go wrong. But I think it's just kind of the changing up of mindset, a little bit, to think about what our position might be in the future. And it might be a little more precarious.
GLENN: We're talking to Dr. Brad Garrett. He wrote the book Bunker: Building for the End Times. You can follow him at his website. BradleyGarrett.com.
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GLENN: I remember I graduated high school in 1982.
And my -- my rights and responsibilities project, was -- was a -- an essay on the preparedness of our school. And I went into our fallout shelter. And it was a joke.
Of, I mean, the -- I remember the air was not being filtered. The air was from just a shaft, that went right directly outside.
Now, I can't even imagine, you know, do fallout shelters even exist anymore?
BRAD: Well, they -- they do. Most of them are in a state of despair. A lot of them have been turned into -- you know, they've just been adapted for different purposes.
There was a national fallout shelter survey, that took place, in the late 1960s. Early '70s. Where we identified parking garages. Basement. You know, spaces that can be used essentially as a fallout shelter.
So imagine, you know, you're 100 miles from a nuclear blast. You would get into this parking garage. And wait it out.
But most of those spaces, as you say. Didn't have any sort of filtration.
So, you know, you might increase people's possibility of survive, but you're not assuring anyone is going to survey really.
Now, if you try to look for those fallout shelters. They're hard to find.
Of course, the government has continued, you know, the theme of protecting themselves.
So they have space. That they can about it to. There's a ring of about 100 bunkers in about Washington, DC. That the government officials can be easily whisked away to.
But, of course, they're stockpiled with food. And they have EMP, like the communication systems. They -- you know, they -- they're blast shelters. So they can take a direct hit.
You know, you can -- so we've assured the continuity of government.
GLENN: But that's about it. Cockroaches and politicians will survive.
BRAD: Of course, they will, yeah. But the government without its people, doesn't mean much.
GLENN: No. It doesn't.
BRAD: Yeah. It's an incredible thing to imagine. During the Cold War.
Every city in the United States, with over half a million people in it. Had a nuclear warhead aimed at it, ready to fire.
It literally took someone to push that button. And that city would be obliterated.
And it feels like, you know, those nuclear tensions are obviously ramping up again. We might end up back in that situation. Where we're thinking seriously, what it would mean to lose DC. Los Angeles, Boston. You know, what would we do?
And the answer is, the government has a plan. But we don't, for the most part.
GLENN: So where do you even start on a plan?
I mean, people will say, I have food and water.
But if you had something. And it doesn't even have to be a nuclear explosion.
You have something where everything is broken down.
You have 72 hours to be away from people.
Otherwise, after 72 hours. If no help comes, the thing just goes into chaos. And if you're known as the person with the food and everything else, I hope you have strong metal doors.
BRAD: Right. Yeah. There's a huge debate in the prepper community, about bugging out, versus bugging in.
And it's kind of a rural versus urban debate. Because if you're in an urban area, you probably want to get out of there. You know, as you said, the preppers have a saying, 72 hours to animal.
It takes about three days, before people really start falling apart.
People will actually -- you know, social logical studies have shown, that in a disaster, people -- their first reaction is to help others.
And that will carry on for a couple of days, until the people who are providing assistance, start suffering.
And then things start collapsing.
GLENN: So is it that, or is it that it's 72 hours, when you know help isn't coming?
Then you start to have the bad guys go, we can take it all.
We -- I mean, nobody is coming.
BRAD: I think it's more of a sense of abandonment.
Once people realize help isn't coming, then you start to turn to yourself and your family, rather than providing assistance to others.
So, yeah. You know, what can you do?
Well, if we're talking about existential threats. Nuclear war.
Unaligned artificial intelligence.
You know, an EMP that wipes out all of the electronics in the country, instantaneously. This isn't really stuff you can prepare for, very well.
GLENN: Right. Right.
BRAD: But what you can prepare for is kind of minor turbulence, I call it.
BRAD: You know, the tap is turning off, or electricity being out for a day or two. You know, buy a backup generator.
Build a go bag that has your passport, your car titles. Your birth certificate.
You know, that kind of stuff.
BRAD: And have that ready to grab, at a moment's notice. Those are things people can do right now.
And it doesn't take much.