Monday, February 21, 2011

Fallout Shelter Sign

The fallout shelter sign was introduced by DOD in December 1961 to indicate Federally-approved shelter space. The design was perfected by Mr. R.W. Blakeley.

As the 1960s wore on, close to a million signs would be affixed to buildings and in hallways and lobbies around the country.

President Kennedy concluded by proposing “a nationwide long-range program of identifying present fallout shelter capacity and providing shelter in new and existing structures.”

To accomplish these goals, Kennedy issued Executive Order 10952 on July 20, 1961, which divided the Office of Civil Defense and Mobilization into two new organizations: the Office of Emergency Planning (OEP) and the Office of Civil Defense. OEP was part of the President’s Executive Office and tasked with advising and assisting the President in determining policy for all nonmilitary emergency preparedness, including civil defense. OCD was part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and was tasked with overseeing the nation’s civil defense program. The responsibility for carrying out the fallout shelter program was among the program operations assigned to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The President emphasized the importance of fallout shelters as a means to save lives. The goal was to provide maximum protection through cost effective means by utilizing existing buildings.

He stressed that identifying and stocking existing shelters with food and medicine should be made a priority. Congress ultimately approved more than $200 million that Kennedy asked for the project.

With the appropriated funds, OCD began a nationwide survey of all existing shelters.121 In order to be designated a public shelter, a facility had to have enough space for at least 50 people, include one cubic foot of storage space per person, and have a radiation protection factor of at least 100. The materials division of DOD, called the Defense Supply Agency, furnished shelter supplies to local governments, which were then responsible for stocking all shelters in their regions. By 1963, 104 million individual shelter spaces had been identified and of those 47 million had been licensed, 46 million marked, and 9 million individual spaces had been stocked with supplies.

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FACT SHEET (Hand written above the title)


The National Fallout Shelter Sign will be a familiar sight all over the United States next year. It will mark buildings and other facilities as areas where 50 or more persons can be sheltered from radioactive fallout resulting from a nuclear attack.

The fallout sign will be used only to mark Federally approved buildings surveyed by architect-engineer firms under contract to the Department of Defense.

In awarding the contract for design of the sign to graphic arts studios it was designated the services of a psychologist be obtained to recommend a visual symbol that could be easily identified and remembered. The sign had to meet the psychological requirements of simplicity, easy identification, retention, and arresting color combination.

It had to be simple enough to be easily identified by children, non-English speaking persons or others who may not be able to read. The color combination, yellow and black, is considered as the most easily identified attention getter by psychologists in the graphic arts industry. The sign can be seen and recognized at distances up to 200 feet.

The shelter symbol on the sign is a black circle set against a yellow rectangular background. Inside the circle, three yellow triangles are arranged in geometric pattern with apex of the triangle pointing down.

Below the fallout symbol, lettered in yellow against black, are the words Fallout Shelter in plain block letters. Yellow directional arrows are located directly underneath the lettering which will indicate the location of the shelter.

# (hand written)

(The following text is crossed out in the original document) The sign was produced as a result of Department of Defense directives to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks to conduct an immediate national fallout shelter survey and marking program.


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