The city of New York has begun a city-wide campaign to remove nuclear shelter fallout signs from buildings that no longer function as real fallout shelters. The once common signs include a large white circle with three yellow triangles inside the circle. This is meant to symbolize a nuke. Signs also have the word capacity printed, which was supposed to be followed by the number of people a shelter can safely accommodate.
These signs date back to the 1960s when the United States was involved in a cold war with the Soviet Union. President John F. Kennedy then signed into law legislation that mandated the creation of nuclear fallout shelters in major cities across the country. These shelters were to be stocked with food and other necessities in case of an emergency nuclear disaster.
The program that funded the upkeep of the nuclear fallout shelters in the United States eventually disappeared in the 1970s. As a result, many shelters fell into disrepair. Eventually, many of them were converted into storage rooms, laundry rooms and apartments in New York City. While they are no longer nuclear fallout shelters, the signs from the 60s continue to remain at many buildings.
City officials in New York have decided to begin removing the last remaining ones because they will only cause confusion in an actual disaster. Most of the buildings that have the yellow nuclear fallout signs remaining are not functional shelters anymore. The shelters were installed in schools and even on the Brooklyn Bridge. New York City education officials say that the education department hopes to eliminate all the fallout shelter signs from school buildings by the New Year.
Emergency management officials at the city say that the shelters no longer figure into modern day emergency preparation and management and that fallout signs should be ignored. The plan of action was updated after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In the case of a real nuclear disaster in New York City people are advised to go to the lowest level possible in a home such as a basement. Windows and doors should be closed to prevent radiation from coming on. If you are in a big building, you should head to the center.
While the city is removing as many of the signs as possible, a few hurdles remain. Some of the signs are now located on private property buildings. Finding out who oversees these properties can be difficult. FEMA, which now oversees the fallout shelters, say that they no longer keep track of the outdated shelters. They have given the city permission to remove the signs and convert the shelters to other uses as needed.