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Reno County Civil Defense Shelter

Reno County CourthouseThe Reno County Civil Defense Shelter was established in the 1960s underneath Hutchinson’s county courthouse. Installed during the Cold War era, the fallout shelter was designed to serve nearly 1,415 area residents in the event of a nuclear attack.

Tensions grew between the United States and the Soviet Union, former World War II allied, in a competition for global influence. The tensions fueled concerns about a nuclear arms race. Although full-scale war never emerged, the threat influenced day to day life in America. The federal and local governments attempted to prepare for a doomsday scenario in public buildings and schools.

Civil Defense Director J.W. Pederson oversaw the organization and upkeep of the facility. The courthouse basement was home to the local emergency operating center, which housed necessary equipment to receive and relay civil defense information to the public, including radio, speaker, and teletype units. Joan Beery was one of the first secretaries at the facility and was responsible for operating the equipment.

Underground vaults and storageEmergency rations and supplies for the shelter were stored in Hutchinson’s underground vaults facility, which boasted temperate conditions and ample space. The large quantity of supplies occupied only a fraction of the 130-acre underground complex. Commodities were transported by elevator, descending 650 feet to the storage area. Supplies were routinely inspected by the director and various representatives of the Office of Civil Defense from Washington, D.C.

The civil defense shelter was one of many in Kansas. A larger shelter in northeast Reno County, was located beneath the grain elevator. In the case of nuclear attack, the shelter could serve 8,720 people in the northeast Hutchinson area.

Entry: Reno County Civil Defense Shelter

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2015

Date Modified: July 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.