Forgive me if I wax nostalgic for a moment. As soon as I heard of Putin’s hinting at the possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine and saw the corresponding massive spike in the sale of bunkers, the following ’80s song popped into my head:

… Six o’clock, TV hour, don’t get caught in foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a motive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh oh
This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline…

It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine. — REM

War and Remembrance

As a kid, I remember my grandfather, a WWII vet, had built a small, all-block structure on the hillside across from his house in rural Pennsylvania. The door was thick and made from solid steel. It was always chilly in there, the air smelled stale, and the walls were lined with canned goods and fruits and vegetables in sealed glass jars.

He called it his “fruit cellar.” Only years later would I learn it was a fallout shelter built by his own hands during the cold war to protect his family in case of a nuclear attack.

With some people seeing World War III looming in the distance, the construction and sale of such doomsday bunkers are on the rise again.

This bunker in Georgia (the one in the US) was built almost 50 years ago by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It can be yours for $17.5 million. (Image courtesy of Caters News Agency)

A Homegrown Solution

Consider the story of Rising S Bunkers, a Texas-based company that has seen a massive spike in sales since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Rising S sells everything from a $39,500 “mini bunker” to their $8.35 million “aristocrat” model that will hold up to 44 people. General Manager Gary Lynch says sales have “increased astronomically” over the past few days.

Typically, Lynch states, “I’ll sell between two to six shelters a month.” 

On the first day of the invasion, he sold five units at prices ranging from $70,000 to $240,000. Because “demand is up 1,000%,” his company has started stocking up on supplies to meet the needs of his customers.

The family-owned company has received inquiries from all over the world, including Italy, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan, Canada, and the US. ‘The interest isn’t just isolated to the US; it’s everywhere.”, he said.

Lynch says that most of the interest in their bunkers comes from consumers who are quite frankly afraid Russia will expand its invasion to other countries outside of Ukraine, thus prompting another world war.

The (Perceived) Need is There

Vivos xPoint, the world’s largest survival bunker complex, is located in South Dakota. Image credit:

Ukraine has at least 5,000 publicly accessible bomb shelters for its (pre-war) population of 44 million. The US has far fewer, and those that remain from the cold war era are in disrepair and lack supplies.

It’s not just US companies that are fulfilling the need. Minus Energie, a small Italian company that has installed 50 bomb shelters over the past two decades, says they have received more than 500 inquiries after the Russian attack on Ukraine.

John Ramey, the founder of The Prepared (a website advocating for “practical prepping”), says traffic on his site has increased exponentially in the past few weeks. He says their top search terms have been “nuclear,” “iodine,” “EMP,” and “radiation sickness.” He went on to say that those particular terms were usually nowhere near the top.

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Not that interest in bunkers is new or unexpected. On the contrary, it’s part of an ongoing trend. Back in 2012, a National Geographic survey found that 62% of Americans thought the world would experience a major catastrophe in less than 20 years. Given the global pandemic followed by a major war, I’ll say they nailed that one on the head.

A further 40% believed that stocking up on supplies or building a bomb shelter was a wiser investment than saving for retirement.

Surprisingly (at least to me), the fastest-growing group that is buying supplies are millennials, 77.7% of whom have emergency supplies on hand or stated that they bought them in the past 12 months.