Home Survival Strategies How and Why Switzerland Provides You with a Bunker

How and Why Switzerland Provides You with a Bunker

by Kyt Lyn Walken

Owning a bunker inside your home could be the fastest, easiest and most comfortable way to face a SHTF scenario without leaving your property.

Maybe some of you don’t know that there is a European country that actually has bunkers in nearly all private estates.

This country is Switzerland.

Cold War

A 1960 Swiss law, revised over the decades, mandates building a bunker inside each new structure in the country.

Article 46 of the Federal Law on Civil Protection Systems states, “the owner who builds a residential building must create a shelter there and equip it […] the Municipalities ensure that areas where the number of protected places is insufficient have sufficient equipped public shelters.”

As of 2006, Switzerland had 300,000 shelters spread among private and public buildings.

Additionally, there were over 5,000 public shelters for a total capacity of 8.6 million people. This was equal to a coverage ratio of 114 percent: 1.14 protected places per inhabitant. Quite impressive.

Switzerland is a unique and surprising case in the world. Fallout shelters are able to accommodate the entire population in case of any SHTF.

Switzerland’s “Golden Age of Bunkers”

The planned construction of fallout shelters in Switzerland began only in the second half of the 1960s, when “Neutrality does not guarantee against radioactivity” used to be one of the mottos in vogue.
The Swiss government opted to be better safe than sorry, focusing commitments and economical efforts on the erection of bunkers.

The construction of shelters in Switzerland reached its peak in the mid-1970s. Back in that time, there were enough shelters to house 380,000 people being built each year, while today the numbers are more around 50,000.¹

Public Bunkers

Public shelters totally blend with the urban environment. For example, a ramp in the city of Lugano leads to an underground structure; this subterranean town consisted of common rooms, dormitories, equipped kitchens and command offices.

They are not only perfectly concealed with the metropolitan area on the surface. In fact, they are 100% autonomous, functional, and still perfectly maintained and working.

They include roomy kitchens, large and comfortable living spaces equipped with newspapers, lamps, and couches. Bathrooms are all provided with hot water thanks to the presence of internal boilers. Tanks containing thousands of liters make it possible.

Diesel generators allow the population to survive for a few weeks. The walls would turn into green phosphorescent paintings interspersed with some dynamo torches in the case of external blackout.

Each space also has a room with stockpiled food, pots, cutlery, even coffee machines and a “menu of the day.”

Inside bunkers, the most critical issue is clean air. In the event of a chemical bombing, or any terrorist attack, all the air coming from the outside is filtered through devices equipped with advanced technology filters. These filters allow fresh and clean air to supply the whole structure.

Moreover, nearly all the bunkers have a restricted command area. It has three rooms. The meeting room is a predetermined locked room hosting the emergency management’s elites. It consists of a large room with screens, computers, a circular table, projector and boards.

The next room is the broadcasting center, with screens, computers, radios, telephones and other communication devices. This is to communicate with the outside world.

The room of the commander-in-chief is the only single room in the whole bunker. It contains a desk, some maps of Switzerland, a personal computer, a nightstand, and a bed.

In a few words, the Swiss government has set up everything to be ready for an upcoming apocalypse.

Private Bunkers

Globally speaking, the Swiss spend the most money to secure themselves against everything and everyone: over 20% of their budget. Besides wanting to do so, they have to, as stated by law.

Each inhabitant is required to have a protected place that can be reached rapidly from home. Additionally, property owners are required to “build and equip shelters in all new residential buildings” (Articles 45 and 46 of the Federal Law on civil protection).

These spaces are called domestic shelters. Each owner can take refuge in them in case of bombing, chemical attack, earthquake or other apocalyptic disasters. They can also keep weapons in them. Military service is mandatory in Switzerland and, at the end of it, each inhabitant is not only allowed but must bring home all his weapons, including ammo and grenades, and take care of them.

The organization of private bunkers is totally different from public shelters. They look more like cellars with thick security doors. Condos (with approximately 25 tenants) usually have a unique common space equipped with a ventilation system and gas filter. They have no kitchens nor command posts.
Thick walls and a long-life food supply room are the only essential elements which can identify these underground spaces as shelters.

Inside single houses, taking care of electricity, water and ventilation systems is all up to the owner.
The median income in Switzerland is one of the highest in all of Europe. This allows the citizens to take the question of a possible apocalypse pretty seriously when it comes to renovating their bunkers in the best way they can.

Equipping private bunkers with the best devices on the market is an activity which requires time, professionalism and dedication.

In wooded and mountainous areas, issues related to humidity are very critical. Humidity, in fact, can not only spoil furniture, but also stockpiled food, gear, weapons and ammo as well. For this reason, dehumidifiers are one most purchased items along with watertight boxes which ensure the endurance of the materials, water tanks, and generators.

Military Bunkers

Military bunkers are scattered all over Switzerland. I had the chance to visit one on the peak of Gotthard Pass at 7000 feet.

Inside the fascinating caverns of Sasso da Pigna Mountain is the most well-planned underground defensive fortification in Switzerland.

Back in the day, it was built to defend the country and to work as a top-secret location. Now it has been turned into a museum. Nonetheless, some of the former military shelters have now remained empty and unused. Given the high maintenance costs, the Swiss Army made the decision to sell them to the highest bidder, at a rate of about twenty a year.

The Swiss Army has no power to determine their new function, meaning people of many backgrounds—philosophers, researchers, photographers, architects, artists—showed great interest. They visited them, documented them, and, in the end, transformed or reinterpreted the military bunkers into multifunctional spaces like theaters, expos, and so on. Even into swimming pools.

Other European Countries

In some cases, for reasons related to lack of space or original structural planning, it was not possible to have a mandatory private shelter inside a building.

Therefore, Swiss law provides an annual fee of 676 euros which guarantees “the presence of a safe place in public emergency facilities.” Public shelters weigh considerably on federal budgets. The ministry reserves a fixed annual amount for the management of these shelters. Simply considering the costs of maintenance and construction of new sites, the figure is about a few million euros a year.

More generally, the costs related to defense accounts for 20 percent of their federal budget.

Only Sweden and Finland can compete with Switzerland, but with their bunker capacity of 7.2 and 3.4 million people respectively (covering approximately 81% and 70% of their population), they alone could vie for the second ranking.

Elsewhere, the situation is varied. In Germany, the coverage ratio at the national level is only 3%. In Austria, the coverage reaches 30%, but most of the shelters are not equipped with a ventilation system. In Norway, the authorities in 1998 repealed the obligation to build bunkers.

Switzerland still leads with the best example. The government keeps on voting for the utility of shelters, not only in the event of an armed conflict, but also in dealing with possible terrorist attacks with nuclear weapons, chemical accidents, or natural disasters.

Swiss fallout shelters still look toward a bright future.


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