New York City is removing thousands of Cold War-era fallout shelter signs so that in the case of a nuclear attack, people don't actually try to use the defunct locations for safety, WNYC reports. "There is a real danger of creating a perception that these shelters exist and that they're somewhere you could go, only to find out that in the shadow of a mushroom cloud you're walking up to a locked door," said Jeff Schlegelmilch of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness.
The shelter signs are long overdue for removal as most of the locations fell into disrepair decades ago. The safe havens were originally built to protect residents from the "fallout" after an initial nuclear explosion, or the "mess of bomb material, soil, and debris that is vaporized, made radioactive, and sprinkled as dust and ash across the landscape by prevailing winds," The Independent reports. While just staying inside reduces some of that danger, about 20 percent of houses are "poor shelters" and won't offer much protection. A basement, on the other hand, could keep exposure down to 1/200th of the radioactive fallout outside.
For 8.5 million New Yorkers, that might mean seeking out an apartment with a sub-basement is worth it — because the city does not have a single functional fallout facility. Learn more by listening to WNYC below. Jeva Lange