Doomsday Bunkers episode 1

On TV: Doomsday Bunkers TV Series

The end… is near. In every corner of America, people believe our world is changing. To them, civilization is falling apart. And the rest of us are in denial. They call themselves preppers, and they’re getting ready for the Apocalypse. They’re piling up guns and food, but what they really need is the perfect place to lay low. Real low. Enter Scott Bales, and Deep Earth Bunkers.

-Intro to episode 1 of Doomsday Bunkers

Wednesday night was the premiere of the new Discovery Channel television series Doomsday Bunkers. While I talked a little about the project Tuesday, this morning I will be reviewing episode 1, “Bunkers, Bullets and Blast Doors.”

Enter Scott Bales, an engineer by trade and owner of Deep Earth Bunker out of Dallas, Texas. From their website:

We manufacture and design, Bunkers and Storm/Hurricane Shelters Panic Vaults and Safe Rooms!

According to Bales, DEB started off fabricating storm shelters first, then added bunkers due to prepper demand. From the show:

Extreme weather and a volatile economy have triggered an explosion of new preppers. Scott’s Texas plant has been bombarded with new orders.

The company has built and installed hundreds of bunkers to date.

Other DEB personnel who appeared in episode 1 included:

• Jesse Saul- Floor Manager
• Scott Free- Special Projects Manager
• Charlie Christie- Quality Assurance/Carpenter
• Alex Bales- Scott’s 22-year-old son. Dad would like him to run the business some day.

Viewers were shown a 1,700 square foot DEB-constructed off-the-grid bunker at an undisclosed location. This particular shelter had multiple generators, filtered air, a 7,000 gallon water tank, and a full-service sewage system. It also came equipped with an above-ground hatch that led to an underground staircase and an armored blast door, along with an escape hatch. While I understand that many of the company’s bunkers share similar features, a bidet was requested by the client for this project. The interior was also designed and decorated to resemble a real nice apartment/condo unit. Bales explained:

Our bunkers are unique. We build them as close to being at home as possible to make you feel more comfortable when you’re in that bunker for an extended period of time.

The premiere focused on two clients of Deep Earth Bunker. First, there’s Shea Degan, a prepper, a former cop, and “master military tactician.” Degan discussed his interested in a bunker:

My number one priority is to protect my wife and children… My biggest fear is social unrest. We’re on the verge of having another recession. When people get desperate, they do desperate things. Home are broken into, business looted, chaos ensues. If the government collapses, and you weren’t a prepper, you don’t have the things in place to protect yourself or your family, you’re in trouble. You have civilized folks that can turn uncivilized very quickly. It becomes survival of the fittest.

Degan opened up 88 Tactical two years ago, a 168-acre complex in northern Nebraska. He explained:

88 Tactical group is a training organization. We’ve taken all of our law enforcement training, and we’ve opened up a number of courses for civilians.

88 Tactical is beta-testing a new training course that teaches people how to live in a bunker, and how to re-integrate into society after emerging from the shelter. As such, Degan wanted the DEB bunker for two purposes. He said:

I am buying this bunker for two different reasons. To teach people how to live in a bunker. And to protect my family- if need be.

Recognizing that this particular project would violate operational security (OPSEC) in that plenty of people would know of the existence and location of the Degan family’s underground survival shelter, Bales pointed out:

Clients call us with crazy ideas all the time. Shea is actually going to show people where his bunker is. You can’t get any more crazy than that.

He told Shea:

I can already see right now that we are going to have to put one hell of an engineered door in this thing, because everybody’s going to know where it is. And when the s*** hits the fan, they’re coming for your bunker, I don’t care what you’ve trained them to do. They’re naturally are going to come right to the bunker. The door has got to be able to stop trained guys from getting through.

Shea replied:

Well, that’s why I’m relying on you, Scott.

The two hammered out the specs for the project. According to the show:

Shea’s bunker needs to hold 4 people for up to 6 months. Scott decides on a 3-unit bunker complex. With over 1,100 square feet of underground space. A living room and full kitchen. Storage for over 6 months of food. And a sleeping wing with a full bathroom. Total cost, $450,000.

Scott talked more about this latest undertaking:

To live underground, there’s a bunch of stuff you have to have- clean air, water, and a solid septic system. Shea’s bunker gets fresh clean air through a nuclear, biological, chemical filter. The sewage will be collected in underground tanks. And for fresh water, Shea’s property holds a major advantage. Shea’s bunker has an underground well that’s dug seven hundred feet down to an aquifer under the earth. He’ll have water forever.

Deep Earth Bunker staff started work on Shea Degan’s shelter, while Scott focused on “the most complicated part of the build project”- the blast door. He explained:

The door is the most important part of any bunker or shelter.

DEB happens to have their own debris testing center which includes a pneumatic air cannon that shoots 2 X 4s over 600 mph. They proceeded to fire these projectiles at a number of different doors before selecting a potential candidate for the Degan job.

At this point in episode 1, viewers were introduced to Mike Hagans, another client of Deep Earth Bunker. Hagans lives with family on the Florida coast. Having already had an underground shelter built for him by Deep Earth Bunker, Hagans contacted Scott Bales about a recent situation in which the generator for his bunker was stolen.

This hideaway is tucked away in an undisclosed mountainous location hundreds of miles away. He said:

My bunker will protect me from tsunamis. I’m up over 1,500 feet.

Hagans explained why he wanted a bunker:

The reason I wanted to get a bunker? Piece of mind.

His underground shelter is only two- years- old, is 8 X 7 X 30, and cost him $70,000 to construct. He is prepping for crises that could last up to 6 months. Hagans said:

I first thought I needed a bunker when I was doing research. I started seeing all the severe weather we’ve been having- the tremendous amount of earthquakes, tornadoes. It just seems those things have been getting worse. You’re going to have some type of catastrophic event that will change everything. The people who aren’t prepping become zombies. They will kill you for anything that will help them survive.

Scott got busy working on a solution for Mike that will allow him to remotely-monitor his bunker.

Returning to Shea Degan’s project, it’s revealed that Shea’s “dedication to prepping is causing conflict at home.” His spouse, Jeannette, recalled:

The first time he brought up prepping, I thought he was crazy.

She’s apparently concerned about the amount of money that’s being spent on supplies. However, Jeannette fully supports her husband training their two kids to defend themselves.

In what could be the funniest part of the show, Scott is shown tinkering with motion-triggered security systems. To test out his latest creation, he affixes an automatic Airsoft gun to it and proceeds to spray his staff with plastic BBs as they break for lunch.

“Doomsday Bunkers: Bunker Defense”
Discovery Channel Video

While Scott worked on a solution for Mike, the prepper resolved himself to taking care of business at his Florida home, which is also full of gear and supplies for the Hagans family to bug-in if needed. Mike said:

You’re actually never done prepping. There’s always something a little bit more you can do.

Like Shea, Mike trains family members in self-defense. But instead of working on hand-to-hand fighting skills, the Hagans family headed to the shooting range in this episode.

The show returned to the ongoing construction of the Degan bunker at DEB, where it was explained:

Building the interior of a bunker is just like building a home- in reverse. The team primes the steel walls first, to protect from rust. And then goes about adding plywood and drywall.

At this point in the episode, Scott’s son Alex gets upset about the wrong screws provided to both him and Charlie Christie, DEB’s carpenter and quality assurance guy. Floor manager Jesse Saul is forced to speak with Alex about his outburst.

The discovery of plywood that’s already been installed in the interior becoming warped due to intense humidity got the team refocused on the task at hand. Unfortunately, the plywood had to be removed and replaced.

While Scott still needs to perfect his motion-triggered security system (future episode?), he was able to figure out a way for Mike Hagans to remotely-monitor his bunker. A 360-degree camera system with 2-way speakers that can be viewed/operated from the underground shelter and remotely via the Internet was installed high in the trees surrounding the mountainous bug-out location. Scott and Mike tested the new system out, and the bunker client was satisfied with the results.

Returning to the Degan project, the DEB crew was shown busting their tails before Shea returned to the facility for a walk-through. Bales explained that the company usually conducts a client walk-through when a project is almost done. Despite Scott’s concerns, his employees made significant progress, and Shea was impressed by what he saw.

The two attended the test of a blast door that DEB hoped would be strong enough to keep the bad guys out of the Degan bunker. Local SWAT team members fired long guns and handguns against the door, to no effect. Next, a shotgun and crowbar-like tool were used to try and breech the door, without success. Finally, a demolitions expert the team brought along with them rigged the entryway with 3 lbs of explosive. Even after detonating this, the blast door refused to budge. DEB had themselves a winner.

With nearly 1,000 hours of work invested in the project, the Nebraska site was prepped for installation by removing 1,400 tons of dirt, leaving a 12-foot deep hole. A crane was used to drop the bunker onto a concrete slab in the hole. And weeks later, well water and septic were hooked up, and the bunker was finally covered. Shea Degan proceeded to stock the shelter with 1,500 lbs of food, enough for his family of four to live 6 months underground.

Overall, I enjoyed episode 1 of Doomsday Bunkers. I’ve always liked learning about underground shelters, so this was right up my alley. “Bunkers, Bullets and Blast Doors” was very interesting, informative, and even funny at times. The Deep Earth Bunker staff that appeared on the show were likeable and seemed professional.

That being said, I’m not a big fan of “reality” TV, and two elements of that genre appeared in Doomsday Bunkers. First, there was drama from Shea Degan’s prepping “causing conflict at home” and from Alex being the owner’s son (as evidenced by the incident with the wrong screws). Second, there was the fast-approaching deadline with the client walk-through.

While I understand that “reality” television is a big hit among many Americans, I can’t help but wonder if the person that tunes into Doomsday Bunkers isn’t the “reality” show type. First off, the preppers/survivalists in the audience already pride themselves from being distinct from the “herd.” Second, from my experience, fans of “reality” TV flock to such programming because (as ironic as it sounds) it diverts their attention away from their own reality. Prepper Mike Hagans may have inadvertently described these folks when he said in the episode:

The people who aren’t paying attention out there- they don’t know what’s going on. Nor do they care to know what’s going on. They don’t want to know what could happen. They’re welcome to think that way. Doesn’t mean I have to.

In my opinion, the Discovery Channel and viewers stand to gain more by having Doomsday Bunkers focus more on the client’s reason(s) for wanting an underground shelter (how about bringing in outside experts to talk about the various threats?) and the engineering/technological features of the bunkers (for example, why wouldn’t the bad guys just attack the air supply system instead of messing around with a blast door?), rather than go down the increasingly-stale “reality” TV route. The rest of us already have enough drama and deadlines in our lives.

According to the Discovery Channel TV schedule, episode 2 of Doomsday Bunkers will air on Wednesday, March 14, and episode 3 on Wednesday, March 21, both at 10 PM E/P each day. Check it out!


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