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With escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, the tabloids and internet news feeds have had a field day with their predictions of nuclear mayhem. Only last week we were told North Korea might soon have the capability to launch a missile strike on the Australian mainland. Whether it’s Yorkeys Knob in far north Queensland or Sydney itself that takes the initial hit, we have to ask – should we all be worried?

Flashback to the 50s and early 60s and much of America was possessed by the threat of a Russian nuclear rampage as the Cold War fuelled an increasing paranoia. A large number of Americans actually built home fallout shelters and school programs encouraged kiddies to “duck and cover” should the dreaded bomb ever fall from the sky. Here in Australia we took a lighter approach although there were many who advocated that we too could become the target of Russian aggression.

We did however find a humorous side to the whole atomic furore. In the early 60s, hundreds if not thousands of spoof letters circulated in Sydney informing the recipient that they had been appointed “nuclear warden” for their particular street. The warden was required to have two or three buckets of water constantly filled to put out any fires as well as a pantry full of household supplies (enough to feed the whole street). It was clearly a pisstake but not surprisingly a number of citizens took up the challenge and revelled in the responsibility.

What then if Kim Jong-un does develop the technology to launch an attack on Sydney? How prepared is this city should the very worst eventuate? The rich will no doubt quickly construct their own luxurious fallout shelters as will the political and business elites but the general public may well be left to fend for themselves. If the CBD became ground zero our railway tunnels might offer some minimal shelter and at least the City Council’s network of emergency speakers could broadcast the warning to “duck and cover”.

However if we look to the American experience of both the 1950s and the present day, it will be left to the independent citizen to take their own precautions. The survivalist and prepper movements in the US have never been stronger as the average Joe (and Joanne) stock up on Spam and other long life tinned goodies in their backyard and rural bunkers, ready for not only nuclear holocaust but climageddon and political upheaval as well.

Forget about granny flats, what we need to be building in backyards throughout the Sydney metropolis are ‘granny bunkers’ – fully equipped subterranean fallout shelters stocked with at least a year’s supply of Spam and dehydrated peas. No DA would be required and prefabricated units would become commonplace at outlets like Cosco and Bunnings. All you would need is a hole in the ground or the cavity left by an old swimming pool and bingo – in goes your bunker!

Sydney today has an acute housing problem and as we await the holocaust the bunkers could take up the slack by providing cheap affordable housing for anybody prepared to embrace the underground experience and a toasted Spam sandwich. We could even go so far as to build entire subterranean suburbs beneath long established existing precincts. Not only would you have trendy Newtown, but a metre or two beneath the ground you would have a lower no frills Newtown, albeit a bomb proof maze of studio apartments, coffee shops and even the occasional Thai restaurant. If they can build multiple tunnels beneath Sydney harbour then surely a suburb beneath a suburb is not such a bad idea. Be prepared!

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