Protection Factor 100

Office of Civil Defense
Norwood Studios
Foreign Service aide, Pan American Airlines supply agent, attorney at law, Marine officer, Chinese guerilla commander, Silver Star winner, Maryland tobacco farmer.  Steuart Lansing Pittman's very diverse resume held these experiences and more when he accepted directorship of the newly established Department of Defense, Office of Civil Defense in 1961.(1)  Although only 42 years old, Pittman was well primed to lead the teams of architects and engineers who that year began searching for potential fallout shelter space in communities across the United States.  Known as the National Fallout Shelter Survey, these regimented building inspections marked "Phase 1" in implementing a system of federally sponsored public fallout shelters. The process of physically visiting existing structures and recording all relevant data is documented in film Protection Factor 100, released in 1962 by the Office of Civil Defense and Norwood Studios, Inc.  Pittman, who never appears comfortable in front of a camera, introduces this film and encourages viewers to read the widely distributed pamphlet Fallout Protection.  "The shelter survey is the first step in a nationwide effort to assure that every American will have a place to go in the event of a nuclear attack.  Extensive studies of many different types have simulated nuclear attacks and have established quite clearly that tens of millions of lives will be saved if shelter space for the entire population is made available."

Subtitled "A Report on the National Shelter Survey", Protection Factor 100 was one entry in a line of civil defense themed productions from Norwood Studios.  Other films to come from the company, which at its peak was the largest private studio on the East Coast, include Warning Red, Civil Defense in Schools, Your Civil Defense and Radiological Defense.  This film follows a group of civilian engineers from Kansas City as they attend a shelter survey course administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  It is noted that by December of 1961, over 1,200 men had completed similar coursework at universities and military installations across the country.   Returning to Kansas City, the engineers meet with civil defense directors and begin to examine public buildings with the minimum requirements for fallout shelter.  A school basement, a parking garage, a municipal auditorium and church buildings are among the conventional structures which are visited.  Use of unconventional locations, such as an underground factory in a disused mine, is encouraged.  Statistical data for eligible buildings, such as the age, the density and thickness of the walls, all entrances and exits and any noted vulnerability, is meticulously recorded on a "1356 Form" and fed into computing machines to create a national database of potential shelters.

The title of the film is drawn from requirements established by the Office of Civil Defense, whereby a building having a protection factor of at least 100 (meaning radiation levels inside the building would measure 1/100th of outdoor levels), was eligible to be marked and stocked as a fallout shelter.  Once a building was deemed suitable, signs demarcated the protected areas within.  "Phase II" of the National Fallout Shelter Program, which involved placing supplies of food, medicine, and sanitation material in the shelter, is the focus of Community Protection Through Civil Defense, a 1963 film.  "Phase III", the final phase was a continual maintenance and resupply of registered shelters.  Throughout the early 1950's, the danger of fallout radiation had been minimized or outright dismissed.  By 1957, however, it was recognized as a serious and long-lasting effect of a nuclear detonation and the government began suggesting individuals construct shelters in their homes.  This privatized view of civil defense responsibility would last until the Kennedy Administration advocated for public fallout shelters.  Protection Factor 100 would not enjoy longevity, but would instead be declared obsolete by 1966, likely due to the constantly evolving nature of the National Fallout Shelter Program which itself would fade largely into obscurity by the 1970's.  All government copies of the film would be recalled and any private owners were instructed to cease screenings.  In spite of this ultimate designation, the closing narration sums up the renewed spirit behind American civil defense in the early 1960's. "This nationwide inventory of existing shelter space will form the basis for all future shelter planning.  It represents a realistic step in a program ultimately designed to make fallout protection available to every individual in every community throughout the nation.  It is a program committed to the principle that the safety of the individual and his community is a national concern, and that the national welfare is the concern of every community!"

Protection Factor 100 May Be Viewed, In Its Entirety, HERE.

1. Langer, Emily. "Steuart Pittman, head of fallout-shelter program at peak of Cold War, dies at 93". Washington Post. Feb 14, 2013.
2. Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization.  1961 Annual Report.  U.S. Government Printing Office.  1962.  12.
3. Department of the Army.  Index of Army Motion Pictures and Related Audio-Visual Aids.  U.S. Government Printing Office.  1972.  347.