A kitchen area, toilets, a bed on the mezzanine, a sofa bed, a coffee table, storage… At first glance, nothing very extraordinary. Except this accommodation is accessed via a jacked hatch before passing through a decontamination airlock, and its roof is covered with activated carbon filters that protect against radioactive fallout in the event of a Nuclear explotion. Welcome to a fallout shelter that complies with “CBRN-E” standards, designed to resist nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical and explosive hazards. And, apparently, new fashion from the French in these uncertain times.
Strong increase in requests and paranoia.
the pandemic COVID-19 and especially the war in ukraine, with the threat of a possible nuclear escalation, caused a wave of panic. In recent weeks, many articles have reported a very strong increase in requests for private bunkers by specialized builders. A company in the Maritime Alps has registered nearly 400 since the invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin, when until then it had been building seven or eight a year. Another sees their website wiped out, with a 4,000% increase in the number of visits. The owner of a huge seventy-bed hostel in Essonne, built in 2014, would have found buyers for the thirty beds he had vacated in four days, despite renting €10,000 per person for five years.
Who are the clients of the bomb shelters and what are their networks? Or, more precisely, what leads them to seriously consider hiding behind reinforced concrete? “Normal people, parents who want to protect their loved ones, who are afraid,” says Enzo Petrone, head of the company specializing in the construction of reinforced concrete structures Amesis Bat, interviewed by nice morning and the parisian. We tried to get to know them, but a certain paranoia has been created due to this recent media frenzy, informs us Stéphane Berry, CEO of The Ecological Warehouse, which offers turnkey constructions for companies or individuals. “It’s a tidal wave right now, it’s a bit of a panic among customers,” he said. We get the general idea: when you build a bunker, it’s not so that everyone knows its exact location.
insecurity and global warming
He too has seen an explosion in demand lately. “The order book is full. We sold three or four in the year, there we are between 15 and 30”, says the entrepreneur based in the Yvelines. She began to offer panic rooms » seven years ago but, realizing that «it was not always enough» in relation to customer expectations, he came to the bunkers. The smallest, 6.5m2 for four people, delivered habitable, costs 149,000 euros. So, everything is possible according to the wishes and means of the buyer, even the immense constructions of a few hundred square meters with a swimming pool or sports center, with prices that quickly rise to €600,000, €700,000 or even more. .
However, the interest in these shelters does not date from the war in Ukraine, adds Stéphane Berry. He explains :
“there were the attacks, disturbing news with people murdered in their homes just for money. A feeling of insecurity developed. we are not in the survival. They are people of means, of course, but people like you and me, who want to protect property and people. They say to themselves, “I’ve got space, money, I’m adding an addition. Anyway, it’s a home improvement, I won’t lose money.” »
Another reason cited is extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent. A bunker is seen as a shelter in case of a heat wave, an earthquake or a major storm. “And then with Covid came the fear of health and biological risks or water contamination. I heard that a lot, adds the business manager. In fact, the bunker is a convergence of all the fears that today’s society arouses: insecurity, pandemic, contamination and global warming. »
Survivors or non-survivors?
In May 2019, a series titled To survive was broadcast on France TV Slash. Director Alexandre Pierrin recounted, in five 15-minute episodes, the lives of men and women preparing for the worst, whatever its nature. Among them, Catherine and Pierre, a couple who had a 16m2 bunker installed in their garden, in which they could “hold six for three months”. In the first episode, we hear Catherine say that she is “worried about the future”. She sees in the news what for her resembles the beginnings of a conflict: forced militarization, economic crisis and vote of the extremes. “Everything that is happening right now has already existed and resulted in disasters, she observes. Not that we are preparing for this, but it could happen. This room can be used to protect our family. »
Survivors or not? No one can precisely define the contours of this movement, which hides neither doctrine, nor organization, nor robotic portrait of the followers, among those who train to shoot guns every day and those who “just” want to be totally independent for their food. “We don’t really know what we’re talking about,” admits Alexandre Pierrin today with 20 minutes. The director came away from this shoot with a strong idea: “The degree of safety is something very subjective, made up of elements of our personal feelings and cultural factors. »
Take the example of Switzerland, where fallout shelters have been mandatory in new construction since the 1960s. The country has more bunker spaces than inhabitants (9 million versus 8.5 million), when France could only potentially protect 0.000001% of its population (1000 shelters for 67 million inhabitants). “On one side of the Alps, it is absolutely normalon the other, we will tell you that it is crazy, when we are not in very different geopolitical realities”, illustrates Alexandre Pierrin.
“The system has strong kidneys”
The documentary filmmaker contacted some of his witnesses again when the pandemic appeared. Contrary to what one might think, they were not particularly happy, shouting from the rooftops that they were right. But they appreciated that those around them, who often put them down, changed their perspective on them and asked for advice. “Where I do not agree with them is that we see precisely, with Covid-19 after the war, that the system has strong backs, the documentary filmmaker believes. Everything works, with difficulties at times, but there have been no riots, looting or civil war, as predicted. »
An observation shared by David Manise, businessman and historical player in the survival sector in France. He rejects -and fights- everything related to survivalism, “a political posture, of mistrust towards institutions, of loss of trust in public services and other human beings, often correlated with extreme political affiliations”. He coined, with a few others, the term “survival”, which he defines as “a rational and scientific approach to survival”. “Survival for us is simply risk management in an isolated or disaster environment. It is a citizen and republican approach to the thing”, he claims. For the 47-year-old Quebecois, who has been organizing internships for almost twenty years, survival cannot be an individual process, a withdrawal into oneself. “It was never a solution. And even if we reason selfishly, cooperation is more profitable than competition. We always go further together,” he says.
“A relationship with rational risk”
David Manise does not understand “this belief that in case of crisis it turns into anarchy and that man is a wolf to man. While history, recent or ancient, shows that the opposite is true. When there is a disaster, people stick together. “It will have been understood, the construction of an anti-atomic shelter is not, for him, the solution”, “already because if we look seriously at the situation, we see that the risk of extension of the conflict is limited”. On the other hand, the risks of a food crisis and high inflation are already very real. Therefore, the most useful thing is to learn to be more independent, to consume more intelligently, to prioritize spending. “There is no point in panicking. It takes a rational relationship to take risks, rather than get excited and scared, he advises. People are told, “Just be prepared, be adaptable.” »
That is what he teaches in his courses, which have been attracting more and more people in the last ten years. She observes “a basic tendency in society to want to recover skills”, somewhat lost with the rampant outsourcing of jobs. But keep in mind that the French often have more resources than they think. “There is this old habit of self-flagellation in France, of saying that we are disgusting, we don’t know how to do it, but in reality you are a very adaptable, ingenious people, very united behind the complaining side”, says David. Manise. Like what, we should not despair.