Air-Raid Shelter
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Basic Information

Air-Raid Shelters are structures built to provide some protection in the case of aerial bombardment, shelling or rocket attack. They became common during World War II and remained so, even in the US, for the majority of the Cold War. Air-raid shelters vary in size from tiny concrete rooms to shelter an individual, up to large bunkers and common rooms designed to house large segments of the public in the event of a war or emergency.

Several countries maintain and even require bomb shelters to the modern day. Switzerland, Finland, Israel and Singapore all have laws requiring air-raid shelters on residences.

Bomb shelters are commonly built of reinforced concrete and placed (wholly or partially) underground for added protection from larger bombs. One downside of partial burial that this makes the bomb shelters more vulnerable in the case of gas attack, as many weaponized poisonous gasses are heavier than air and will collect in low places. Another possible danger of being in or underground is the idea of getting trapped or buried in the shelter. If the shelter is near (or within) other buildings, it's important that the roof outside the shelter be reinforced as well so that falling debris can't easily block it off. And of course, a shelter that will be occupied for any length of time needs preserved food, potable water, a dry toilet, an air filtration system and the like, maybe even a decontamination room. More primitive shelters may simply consist of a reinforced interior room or an earth-roofed outdoor construction - these tend not to resist high powered weapons - or even a direct hit from relatively low powered ones - but will shield the occupants from incidental blast, splinters and air defence debris.

An air-raid or bomb shelter that is fortified and intended to resist ground assault as well as bombing is more properly known as a bunker. The term civil defence shelter may also be used, particularly of public facilities and often of those designed to resist natural disaster as well as human aggression.

List of common "models" of World War II era air-raid shelters:

In addition, many cellars and subway stations were either converted for use as bomb shelters, or simply used without any upgrading.


2. commercial site selling modern bomb shelters - includes floor plans, animated tour, and details on weaponry it can resist.

Game and Story Use

  • In a WWII game, the PCs might have to suddenly rush to the nearest bomb shelter.
  • Bomb Shelters are an interesting setting, if you need to keep the PCs constrained to a location for the duration of a mystery, investigation, or other tense scene.
    • They're also a way to add a little human interest (or horror) sub-plot. The PCs are deep under cover, and then their own government starts bombing the city they are infiltrating. Now they have to hide in a bunker with the innocent civilian victims of the war. Things aren't quite so black and white now, are they?
  • After The End, as the Post-Apocalyptic Decay sets in, the PCs are based out of one of those modern bomb shelters (see bibliography). Going outside is dangerous, but if they stay inside resource management is difficult.
    • Space is at a premium inside the shelter, so you can't bring everything with you that you might prefer to have.
    • Radiation, Poison, etc may be waiting for you.
    • They have to go out and raid or hunt, but then be careful not to lead the zombies, marauders or invaders back to their hidden shelter.
      • And then there's the risk of opening a shelter than turns out to be full of zombies … more generally, if you open a sealed door and find evidence that people died with their backs to the other side1, close it again. Quickly. And then mark it so that no other idiot tries to explore the place.
    • Conversely, in the right kind of apocalypse, a properly prepared shelter may turn out to be a useful jackpot of supplies.
      • Which is why some idiot ignores the "all dead (and hungry) inside" sign on the door.
  • Extended periods of peace tend to lead to bomb shelters being used for junk storage or otherwise falling into disuse or disrepair - unhealthy if they are needed again in a hurry.
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