in event of nuclear attack, designated officials report to Diefenbunker

by Leslie Hossack

Examination Room, Medical Centre, 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 would report to the bunker. Because they may have been exposed to radiation, they would first be directed to the decontamination area. Please see yesterday’s post for a photograph of the decontamination showers.

After leaving the decontamination chamber, officials entering the Deifenbunker would be checked out by medical staff before reporting for duty. The medical centre in the bunker was staffed by personnel from the Canadian National Defence 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.

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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