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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Kidde Kokoon: 1955

Kidde Kokoon: 1955

1955. "H-bomb hideaway. Family seated in a Kidde Kokoon, an underground fallout shelter manufactured by Walter Kidde Nuclear Laboratories of Garden City, Long Island." United Press photo. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Our fully equipped house

Our house (built 1961) has a tiny bomb shelter tucked under one of the bedrooms. It has an extra set of floor joists above it and steel braces running between those and the floor; there's also a vent pipe to the outside. I really cannot see the five of us lasting in that room more than about an hour; my son is too tall to even stand up in it. The roof trusses on the house are overbuilt, which came in handy when the tree fell on the dining room a year ago. My parents tell me that some of the houses in their neighborhood have built-in shelters too. Of course being that we all live within a few miles of major DoD labs and contractors, not to mention NSA, one would have to expect that in a concerted nuclear attack we would have all been collateral casualties (as the euphemism goes).

Studio Apartment

In some of your more upscale areas today (Manhattan, Silicon Valley...) you could probably rent that space out for a couple grand a month.

A modern variation

Underground shelters that look quite like fallout shelters are popular in some parts of Australia as wildfire shelters. They don't have air filtration systems because they have to be completely sealed to prevent the fires from sucking out all the oxygen. As wildfires move very quickly, it's not necessary to take shelter for more than an hour, tops, and the air within the shelters is enough to sustain the occupants for that short period.

They really did exist

My parents had some friends who were very eccentric, and they had one. They took us through it once, when I was very little. This would have been about the Cuban Missile Crisis era. I remember it was painted sunny yellow inside and was tiny and smelled musty. It couldn't have been more than about 8X10 feet. My dad said it reminded him of a converted septic tank. In 1962 the Marx toy company even made a dollhouse with a fallout shelter included. The room on the left of the ground floor is the shelter.

RE: Trenching Tool

I think if you're close enough to the blast to be covered by debris, you're probably toast anyway.

[Not to belabor the obvious, but fallout shelters are shelters from fallout, i.e. gamma radiation from the radioactive dust and debris that fall after the blast. They're not blast shelters. - Dave]

Re: Trenching Tool

Ask yourself how you would get out, after the ingress tunnel is filled with debris.

US Army Trenching Tool

Kind of curious to know why they have one. There's nothing to dig inside the shelter, and if you go outside to dig, you've just exposed yourself to the radiation you were trying to avoid!

Are You Kiddeng Me?

I hope there are closed-environment sanitation facilities/provisions out of camera view. Otherwise, it will be a foul smelling and unsanitary Kokoon before too long.

Chocolate Drop

Spam and sweet cocoa for sandwiches and cocoa cupcakes. It's a lifestyle.

I'd rather be dead

Living in this thing with my family would be worse than the alternative. We'd be at each other's throats in a few hours.

If you're going to have a bomb shelter, at least make it comfortable!


Did the owners of the shelters have to furnish the interior to suit their needs. Those shelves and bunks look fairly homemade. What a gloomy place.

Kanned Heat

In your Kidde Kokoon you will have Kanned Water, Kanned Food, and Kanned Heat! (aka: Sterno)

Where's Junior?

I see a toy Jeep partially visible behind the box of canned water. Did Junior not make it in time?


Geez if I'm going to have to wear a necktie I'm not going.

Where the elite shelter.

Seriously, I lived through this era (born in 1942), and nobody had one of these. They were seen in newsreels, and PR photos like this, but no real family wanted, or could afford this nonesense.


Little Girl has her toy stuffed cat to play with, so I guess Mom & Dad will be fighting over who gets to play with the toy Jeep on the floor!

Twilight Zone episode?

I don't foresee a happy outcome here. It's going to get weird any minute.


A substance's ability to shield from radiation is measured in half-thickness, which obviously is the amount of material needed to reduce the radiation dose by 50%. It also depends on the radiation source, for example cobalt-60 is more energetic than cesium-137 and therefore requires a thicker shield to get the same reduction. I couldn't find anything for packed earth, but the half-thickness for steel with a Cs-137 source is about half an inch. Several feet of packed earth would definitely reduce the radiation level, probably by quite a lot. Without more research I can't be sure how much.

[The half-thickness for packed earth is 9 cm, or 3.6 inches. Multiplying that by ten, to 36 inches, reduces radiation by a factor of 210, or 1,024. - Dave]

Walter Kidde

Was this the same company that makes firefighting equipment?

Brilliant design, business dud

That radiation monitor is an extremely clever device that works entirely without batteries, which in other radiation detectors of the time were typically in the depleted state when you finally needed them.

And it was total business flop.

deja vu

Some years ago in Seattle after retiring to the backyard after dinner with a new friend I noticed a wheeled hatch in the middle of the yard. "Oh that's our bomb shelter" the host exclaimed, and sure enough after she opened the hatch we all went down a ladder into a shelter looking exactly like the one pictured. It even had a couple of unopened crates of (50 year old) canned goods still piled in the corner. A very weird deja-vu to say the least since I distinctly remember them being sold off parked flat bed trucks near my neighborhood as a kid.

Space efficiency

Yes, by all means, let's take up valuable space by keeping the canned food and water in cases made of 3/4" plywood!

How much lead lining?

Without any lead lining, and depending on how deep the shelter was buried, this wouldn't do you much good.

[Not true. Three feet of packed earth above the shelter will reduce the intensity of gamma radiation by a factor of 1,024. - Dave]

Dave, I'm not sure about the factor of 1024 you speak about. In reading this information, there is a level of protection in a small amount of dirt or concrete. Of course, if you don't insulate the door, your shelter won't get a glowing report; but you will. I've also read that many early bomb shelters were built less than 12 inches below ground level, and some were just placed in a basement.

[The standard minimum 3-foot depth for an effective earth-shielded fallout shelter is based on well-established research. This is why underground shelters don't need a lead lining. - Dave]

A basic fallout shelter consists of shields that reduce gamma ray exposure by a factor of 1000. The required shielding can be accomplished with 10 times the thickness of any quantity of material capable of cutting gamma ray exposure in half. Shields that reduce gamma ray intensity by 50 percent include 1 cm (0.4 inch) of lead, 6 cm (2.4 inches) of concrete, 9 cm (3.6 inches) of packed earth or 150 m (500 ft) of air. When multiple thicknesses are built, the shielding multiplies. Thus, a practical fallout shield is ten halving-thicknesses of packed earth, reducing gamma rays by approximately 210, or 1,024, times.

What's missing?

I see canned food. I see canned water. Where's the can?


They forgot the canned laughter.

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