Being viewed as the world's most powerful nation is fun during international flag-waving spectacles such as the opening Olympic Games ceremonies or a rare United Nations event. But that status symbol also makes us the target of many countries that either want the crown for their own or, in most cases, just want to see us fall.
Before the advent of modern artillery and airborne weapons, American families hid in their basements, attics or haylofts to escape enemy invasions from foot soldiers. After Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, we went through over a decade with a sense of security, convinced no one would dare threaten a nation that had retaliated against Japan with such deadly force.
As we rested on our laurels, the development of nuclear weapons progressed. Even more distressing was the fact that some of our biggest enemies had the weapons we feared most and were taunting us with threats of attacks that would wipe us off the map.
Thus began the fallout shelter craze. Around 1950, Popular Science magazine started publishing blueprints, diagrams and detailed instructions on how to build home fallout shelters. These underground structures promised to protect people from a nuclear attack. The threat was so real that President John F. Kennedy appointed America's first civil defense chief, lawyer Steuart Pittman, to orchestrate the construction of enough fallout shelters to protect everyone in America if we were the target of an atomic attack.
Endless and angry debates ensued for three years over the cost, principles and viability of the program and it disappeared. However, private citizens built bomb shelters, as did corporations and government agencies. Thankfully, they've never had to be used but they still exist in the US as well as in other countries.
10 Burlington Bunker, UK
Built in 1950 by the British government, this bomb shelter was designed to serve as the Emergency Government War Headquarters as well as a bunker to shelter civilians from nuclear attacks. It's a 35 acre complex located 100 feet beneath the surface of Corsham. It had enough provisions to feed and shelter 6,000 people for 3 months but since it also housed an underground lake and water treatment facility, people could have conceivably survived a lot longer. It was shut down in 2005 but if you happen to be in jolly old England when atomic wear breaks out, have it circled on your sightseeing map.
9 Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado
Nothing spells safety like granite, especially 2,000 feet of granite. The triple-peaked mountain complex took 5 years to build and was completed in 1966. The Colorado Springs facility was created to endure a 5 megaton nuclear explosion up to 1.7 miles away. The mountain housed underground operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) during the Cold War to keep an eye on North American airspace for missile launches and Soviet military aircraft, now serves as a host for military, communications, recreational, and residential functions. Cheyenne Mountain is quite popular with Colorado residents, so if you're just visiting during a nuclear attack, be prepared to fight to get in…which might be easier now that the state has legalized recreational marijuana use.
8 Denver International Airport, Colorado
If Cheyenne Mountain is booked solid, check out Denver International Airport a little over an hour's drive away. The massive airport covers more than 53 square miles and sits atop a pretty remote plane, making landings more thrilling than most. Fairly reliable sources claim there are bunkers built under or near the airport that would protect people from a nuclear attack. Hopefully one of those sources will be able to lead people to safety if Armageddon materializes.
7 The Greenbrier Bunker, Virginia
In 1958, during its Eisenhower-Era, the United States government agreed to build this world famous luxury hotel in White Sulphur Springs a brand new addition in exchange for the right to build a 120,000 square foot bunker underneath it. Built 720 feet into the hillside under The Greenbrier's West Virginia Wing, the project was completed in 1961. It was outed and closed in the early '90s but if you're in the middle of a massage at the opulent hotel during a nuclear attack, you couldn't find a fancier place to hide.
6 Iron Mountain, Massachusetts
This 10,000 square foot space in a 1,000 acre limestone mine is believed by many to be one of the safest places on earth. Although it wasn't formally built as a bomb shelter and it's been used for commercial digital data storage for decades, its physical structure hasn't been compromised, making it one of the nation's best fortresses in which to seek refuge from nuclear war. It might be a little crowded but it beats the alternatives if you need quick shelter in Massachusetts.
5 Mount Weather, Virginia
We've all heard test broadcasts of the Emergency Alert System but if there's ever a nuclear attack, this is probably where that call would originate. It's a civilian command facility that doubles as FEMA's (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Center Of Operations and the President of the United States or a FEMA official would make the announcement, which indicates the high level of protection it provides. The site originated as a weather station in the late 1800s, and served as a Civilian Public Service Station during World War II. The facility has a protected underground portion as well as numerous fortified buildings above ground, so you have refuge options.
4 The Moscow Metro, Russia
Stalin and his regime had this system built beneath the city of Moscow during the Cold War. This large subterranean system of secret trains and bunkers is still heavily used today, in fact its one of the most used in the world, transporting about 9 million people each day according to citylab.com. Not only is this metro among the most beautiful in the world it happens to be a very safe place, so if ever you need to take cover while in Russia make sure you are close to the metro station.
3 Raven Rock Mountain Complex, Pennsylvania-Maryland
If you fancy escaping a nuclear attack in style, make sure you're near Raven Rock Mountain Complex. The five, 3-story buildings at the facility house a dental clinic, medical clinic, dining facility, post office, snack bar, dormitories, chapel, barber shop, fitness center and even a Starbucks, all with high-tech ventilation systems. Since the complex was originally built as a relocation site for the Pentagon staff, it only holds 3,000 people, so cutting in line might be your best bet.
2 The Shanghai Complex, China
As with most news that comes out of China, the story of the completion of this complex that surfaced in 2006 is somewhat suspect. Nevertheless, The Shanghai Morning Post reported the bunker is 1 million square feet, big enough to protect 200,000 people from blasts, nuclear radiation and poisonous gas emissions. Considering China's population is pushing 1.5 billion, that leaves a lot of people unprotected.
1 Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway
Often affectionately dubbed the Noah's Ark for seeds, this huge vault is located inside a sandstone mountain on Spitsbergen Island. Designed to store and safeguard innumerable kinds of seeds from all over the world, it ensures the protection of vegetation in perpetuity. Since the vault protrudes deep inside a mountain, it would likely protect people as well. If not, you can try to make it to the North Pole a little over 800 miles away and throw yourself on the mercy of Santa and his wife.