bunker boasts medical centre, confinement cell

by Leslie Hossack

Recovery Room, Level 400, The Diefenbunker, Ottawa 2010

Hospital Bed, 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.

In addition to the operating room shown in yesterday’s post, the medical centre in the bunker had a recovery room and a few other hospital beds, but space was at a premium. There was also a confinement cell for those who broke under the stress of isolation.

Because the bunker was built to shift in the event of a nuclear attack, the hospital beds in the top photograph were chained to the floor to prevent them from moving. As well, bunker lights were used to withstand the shock of a blast. Interestingly, the air pressure in the medical centre at the Diefenbunker was kept slightly lower than in the rest of the complex, to help prevent the spread of diseases to other parts of the building.

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, decontamination chambers, and a weather station to monitor wind patterns and take radioactive readings. Other rooms, including the kitchens, bathrooms, food and waste storage, hospital and morgue, were dedicated to simple human survival.

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

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