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One organization’s approach to bomb shelters, community relations and longevity.
By: Sharon Packer
If you’re concerned about civil defense and want to promote bomb shelters, here are some suggestions from Civil Defense Volunteers of Utah, now starting its 11th year of community service. (Originally published in 1997. The Utah Civil Defense Volunteers group is still going strong today.)
- Build your own personal home shelter. You can’t successfully promote shelters otherwise.
- Keep a journal. Record what you learn. I’m still upgrading my journal and learning from other folks.
- Keep confidences. Emergency preparedness is a private issue. We keep all names, locations of shelters, equipment, motives, etc., confidential.
- Help others in their construction. Let others learn from your mistakes. We spend hours working out problems and making sure the shelters are constructed properly.
- Make yourself available by phone. We try to be as approachable for those here in Utah, as others throughout the nation have been to us.
- Be willing to show and tell. We show our personal shelters to people who genuinely want to see them.
- Study. Read everything available on civil defense. Keep current on national security issues.
- Consult with specialists. We call all over the United States to find experts to answer our questions.
- Share. Take every opportunity to talk about civil defense. Lecture to schools. Talk to neighbors, acquaintances, strangers.
- Don’t be offensive. We’ve found we don’t convert people -just educate them. Those that understand the threat will listen and act.
- Learn from your own lectures. Keep a running list of questions people ask, and hand out these questions at the beginning of your lectures as mind teasers.
- Teach to their capabilities. Don’t overwhelm or try to impress people. Stop when they’re tired.
- Find a permanent meeting place. Don’t be afraid to ask for a donated meeting place.
- Have interesting speakers. Give the people a good show. Seek out knowledgeable, entertaining speakers.
- Stress the multiuse of the shelters. These shelters would save many lives in not only nuclear war, but in earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, winter storms, and tornadoes.
- Don’t mix agendas. Our message is civil defense. In our regular meetings we never address religion or politics, nor do we mention firearms or hand-to-hand combat. We stick to nuclear effects and survival after war.
- Enlist the help of others. Look for people who might have a little extra time. Seek the help of retired couples.
- Encourage group participation. We invite members to give demonstrations or share interesting articles at meetings.
- Make a shelter display. We were fortunate to have a full-size shelter display assigned to the State of Utah. We show this display at state, county and preparedness fairs. We have also made small shelter displays to take to lectures. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a model is worth a thousand pictures.
- Clone yourself. Encourage members to teach in their own neighborhoods and civic groups. Videotape lectures and put them out for loan.
- The organization must work for the people, not the people for the organization. We do not charge for our lectures. Any money from dues and donations is spent on real expenses and maintaining and moving the shelter display. We take no salaries and make nothing on the shelter construction.
About the author: Sharon Packer, of Salt Lake City, is the co-founder of Civil Defense Volunteers of Utah. She has been a dedicated board member of The American Civil Defense Association and a contributing author in The Journal of Civil Defense for many years. She and her business partner, Paul Seyfried, own and operate Utah Shelter Systems. (For more information on their shelters, visit: www.utahsheltersystems.com.)