LOS ANGELES — In the backyard of his remote Southern California home, Bernie Jones is etching an unconventional blueprint: a construction plan to build his underground survival shelter. It won’t be the typical, cramped Cold War-era bunker. It will hold 20 people.
Part of a small but vocal group of survivalists in Menifee, some 80 miles east of Los Angeles, Jones, 46, has pushed for the right to build a bunker on his 1-acre property for nearly a year.
He wants to be ready for anything, be it natural disaster or a nuclear attack.
Residents of the small city once known for its farming and mining can begin applying for permits to build their subterranean housing after the City Council passed an ordinance allowing the practice.
Americans have been building underground bunkers for decades, their interest in such shelters waxing and waning with current events. Many dug backyard fallout shelters during the Cold War.
This next generation of bunkers comes as many survivalists face heightened concerns of a terrorist attack, economic meltdown and for some, even solar flares or meteor showers.
“The bunker is a type of security blanket,” says Stephen O’Leary, an expert in apocalyptic and end-of-the-world theories at the University of Southern California. “They are concerned with what’s happening in the world on a massive scale.”
The move to allow below-ground bunkers has created waves among city officials who are concerned with earthquake faults in the area, safety of police and first responders answering emergency calls and the potential for owners to hide criminal activity, such as drug manufacturing.
City Councilman Tom Fuhrman calls the ordinance a victory for property rights, not for those looking to break the law.
There are signs survival bunkers are making a comeback throughout the country.
Ronald Hubbard, who runs Atlas Survival Shelters near Los Angeles, ships his luxury bunkers out of state.
Unlike Cold War-era shelters, he builds ones that are half the length of a basketball court and have a master bedroom, dining nook and a couch to watch a 47-inch flat screen TV.
Preppers, who dedicate their time to ensuring they are ready for a host of deadly scenarios, even have their own reality TV show.
People should spend time preparing for likely disasters instead of Armageddon, said Steve Davis, president of emergency management company All Hands Consulting.