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Blast From The Past: Could Clark County's Fallout Shelters Be Needed Again?

Joe Schoenmann

The sleeping quarters at one of Clark County's last remaining fallout shelters.

For a day or two—or at least until more White House turmoil – the verbal sparring between two nuclear powers has stopped.

But in the event that North Korea DOES fire those missiles toward Guam, as that country has threatened, there is fear that it could result in a nuclear exchange.

Meanwhile, Nellis and Creech Air force bases are in and near Las Vegas.

For decades, Las Vegas had fallout shelters established throughout the valley. Most of those have disappeared under the wrecking ball as the area grew. But what if a nuclear war broke out today? Where would people go? What would they do?

Clark County Fire Department Chief John Steinbeck is the point-man for questions like these.

“We don’t overly react to the news of the day but, of course, we have to react to the threat,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada, “It’s causing us to take a look and re-evaluate some of our planning for it.”

He said whenever there is a concern about public safety whether it's because of a disease like Ebola or a potential terror attack his office gets calls.

“Whatever the crisis of the year we start getting more phone calls for that crisis and right now it is nuclear,” he said.

Steinbeck was quick to point out that the probability is low that an attack would happen, but the consequences of a nuclear exchange would be high, which is why they need to be prepared but not overly concerned. He said there are "federal, state and local resources" available for emergencies but no one has experience with fallout from a nuclear blast. 

However, the county and city have emergency operation plans that do include how to respond to radiological emergencies whether intentional or accidental.

While the county has plans in place - just in case - they don't have any fallout shelters. The chief said funding for the shelters ended before the Cold War ended. The only one left is underground but is more of a museum. 


Chief John Steinbeck, Clark County Fire Department

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.