If You See This Sign in NYC, Ignore It

Cold War relics are starting to be removed from city's schools, but thousands remain
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2017 7:21 AM CST
If You See This Sign in NYC, Ignore It
The signs look like this.   (Getty Images)

If you're a New Yorker who is soothed by the sight of fallout shelter signs on the city's buildings in the face of an increasingly bombastic North Korea, bad news. The Cold War relics—at one time denoting the city's 18,000 fallout shelters, which were intended to provide a safe space for up to 11 million people—indicate shelters that in large part no longer exist, reported CNBC in October. The government funds that supported the effort stopped flowing in the 1970s, and the basement spaces have found second lives as laundry rooms or storage areas. And as Reuters reports, the city is now quietly doing something about the lingering signage. It reports thousands of them remain affixed to the city's buildings, and the city's Department of Education has been ridding its schools of the signs, with the intention of being free of them by Jan. 1.

Reuters cites city officials who say this is the first "coordinated effort" to take the signs down, and disaster preparedness expert Jeff Schlegelmilch applauds the effort. "At best, they are ignored, at worst, they're misleading and are going to cost people's lives." He told CNBC that recommendations have changed, and that sheltering in place in the event of a nuclear attack is much wiser than fleeing to a hypothetical nuclear shelter elsewhere. Reuters notes it's unclear whose jurisdiction other signs—like those on apartment buildings—falls under. Robert Blakeley, the US Army Corps of Engineers official who designed the signs in 1961, has said of them, "They would have to be usable in downtown New York City, Manhattan, when all the lights are out and people are on the street and don't know where to go." He died on Oct. 25 at age 95, per the Times of London. (More nuclear fallout shelter stories.)

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