officials directed to decontamination area

by Leslie Hossack

Shower, Decontamination Area, Level 400, The Diefenbunker, Ottawa 2010

© Leslie Hossack

Exactly 50 years ago, in December 1961, Canada’s Central Emergency Government Headquarters, aka the Diefenbunker, became operational. During the Cold War, in the event of a nuclear attack, designated government officials and staff would enter the bunker via the blast tunnel shown in yesterday’s post. Because they may have been exposed to radiation, they would first be directed to the decontamination area where they would be required to take a shower with their clothes on. After their wet contaminated clothes were removed and put in lead-lined containers, individuals needed to have a second shower before donning clean overalls and slippers, and proceeding to the medical centre.

Built secretly between 1959 and 1961 just outside of Ottawa, the Diefenbunker was nicknamed after Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker. This massive underground complex contained office spaces, sleeping quarters, broadcasting facilities and decontamination chambers, such as the yellow shower area shown in the photograph above.

On August 21st 1958, Prime Minister Diefenbaker ordered the construction of the shelter. The Diefenbunker was designed for 535 people, with enough supplies to survive for 30 days. Inside the bunker, a CBC radio station provided a vital link to the Canadian public. A weather studio was equipped to monitor wind patterns and take radioactive readings. Other rooms – kitchens, bathrooms, food and waste storage, a hospital and a morgue – were dedicated to simple human survival. People entering the bunker would have had to go through a decontamination room with “radiac” equipment, showers and lead-lined clothing disposal bins.

Please visit the Parks Canada site for more information about The Diefenbunker.

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