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Shelter on a Quiet Street


Office of Civil Defense


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"This film is designed not only for those living in suburban or rural areas too far removed from the nearest community shelter-but also for those in urban sections who, for reasons of personal preference or convenience, would rather rely on a family shelter for fallout protection."  This excerpt, taken from a civil defense catalog description of Shelter on a Quiet Street, outlines the problem the film was made to address.  When the United States first implemented a system of public fallout shelters in late 1961, officials within the Office of Civil Defense began the arduous task of finding, marking, and stocking buildings which met standards outlined by the 

Department of Defense.  Because architectural requirements often called for ample space and solid construction materials like granite and masonry, many of the first fallout shelters were located in government buildings.  As the program expanded, most public shelters could be found in downtown areas, meaning that a large segment of the population could expect to find a suitable refuge close at hand, provided an enemy attack occurred during standard working hours.  In the suburbs, where many Americans lived and leisured, there was often little to no public shelter space available.

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To remedy this issue, the Office of Civil Defense developed the concept of Community Shelter Planning, whereby individual cities were given the responsibility of mapping and assigning their available shelter space among the local population to ensure that all parties could reach the closest available shelter.  Community Shelter Planning further encouraged the creation of suburban fallout shelters, often in neighborhood schools, as well as the construction of private shelters in the home.  It is this final aspect which Shelter on a Quiet Street focuses on.  Released in 1963, the film begins with Hank Adams, civil defense director, as he and a crew stock a large office 

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building in the heart of a city's downtown business district with medical supplies and radiation detection equipment.  On his drive home, he muses over the lack of fallout protection in outlying neighborhoods of the city.  Adams stops outside home of David and Betsy Warren and relates how he guided them in creating a personal fallout shelter.  The Warrens take advantage of recent renovations to add a concrete block style shelter in their basement.  With the help of his two sons, David Warren quickly sees his new addition take shape.  Meanwhile, his wife takes note of supplies needed to stock the shelter and devises a rotation schedule to keep all items fresh.

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The plans which David Warren follows to build his home shelter were first published in the 1959 instructional pamphlet The Family Fallout Shelter.  The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, publisher of the pamphlet, also released a number of promotional materials to encourage home shelter construction.  Among these materials was Walt Builds a Family Fallout Shelter, a 1960 film featuring television workshop host Walter Durbhan, who fashions a basement shelter identical to that of the Warrens.  Interestingly, however, Walt Builds a Family Fallout Shelter was deemed obsolete by 1965, the same year the Office of 

Civil Defense was promoting Shelter on a Quiet Street, which offers the exact same step-by-step presentation to create the exact same concrete block shelter.  One possible explanation for this seemingly counter-productive decision is the National Fallout Shelter Program, not yet in existence in 1960.  Walt explains to his audience that the only means of fallout protection they can count on are steps they take themselves.  Because civil defense planners were trying very hard to promote public shelters stocked with government furnished supplies, any films which failed to mention their efficacy, let alone their existence, were likely thought to be detrimental to advertising efforts.

Shelter on a Quiet Street may be viewed, in its entirety, HERE.

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