Arrow-right Camera


Doug Clark: In case of helter-skelter, he’s got your shelter

Sun., April 20, 2014

Fretting about seismic upheaval, falling nukes or an invasion of human-gobbling zombies?

Or maybe you’re in the market for one really impenetrable wine cellar.

Does John Camp have a deal for you!

The affable CEO of Custom Survival Bunkers is having a blowout sale on a rather unusual item: the 10-by-30-foot bunker that the 38-year-old builder and general contractor has displayed recently at Spokane home and gun shows.

Thirty tons of peace of mind for just $47,995.

Plus installation, of course.

This is quite a deal, said Camp, adding that his prototype would normally sell for 60 grand.

“It’s bulletproof. It’s bombproof. It’s earthquake-proof,” he added proudly.

“You can close the doors and not worry about anything.”

See for yourself by taking a short easterly drive from the Y on Highway 2. Turn right into the car lot just before the Big R store and look for the large rectangular black box with the sign that dares all to “see what’s inside.”

I did just that on Friday. Camp gave me a tour and told me about his foray into the bunker biz. (Call (509) 991-0298 for appointments or check out customsurvivalbunkers. com).

“This thing’s nicer than some of the apartments I’ve lived in,” I told my host.

Camp said he gets that reaction all the time.

Though plug-ugly on the outside (what do you expect for a concrete box that’s going underground?), the bunker’s interior offers enough cozy space to accommodate a survivalist family of four to six.

High ceilings. Wood cabinets. Marbled countertops. A bathroom. Sleeping quarters.

Let’s not forget the all-important escape hatch.

I could definitely see myself hiding from the walking dead in such an abode.

Except that I’ll apparently be hiding all alone.

No matter how many times I tell her that it’s really no different than being in a windowless basement, my lovely wife, Sherry, says no soap.

She claims even thinking about living a Morlockian lifestyle gives her the willies.

Not me. I’ve always wanted my very own bomb shelter.

I was an impressionable 11-year-old during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when America and the Soviet Union teetered on the brink of World War III.

At school we prepared for nuclear holocaust by hiding under our desks with our heads covered.

Noon Wednesdays I walked home for lunch with the practice air raid sirens howling in my ears.

The fallout shelter became part of my pop culture.

So much so that my fifth-grade entry for the Franklin Elementary School science fair was a mini-plywood fallout shelter that I conned my dad into building.

People talk a lot about how stressful growing up was back then.

Maybe so. But today is hardly a Calgon tranquility bath.

Fears about everything from economic collapse to electromagnetic pulse attacks have created a “prepper” business worth billions.

Magazines like “American Frontiersman” hawk water purification systems while reporting on subjects like “Practical Doomsday Prepping” and how to “Survive & Thrive in the Backwoods.”

Reality TV shows like “Doomsday Preppers” feature actual people who build armored survival trucks or stockpile enough guns and ammo to equip the Montana Militia.

Freeze-dried grub. Bug-out bags …

But while paranoia abounds, the prepper philosophy does have its practical side.

The truth is that we live in a world where calamities like hurricanes, ice storms and earthquakes happen with tragic regularity.

Being prepared just makes good sense.

But a steel-reinforced concrete survival bunker?

“We’re living in some pretty precarious times,” Camp said. “Who knows what’s going to happen?”

Camp said he has the experts and equipment to put a bunker of any size wherever you want and then cover it up so nobody but you knows where the heck it is.

The passion Camp has for construction has been building for most of his life. For his 13th birthday, Camp said he got what he asked for: a pile of two-by-fours that he used to build a shed.

A year later, he said his parents let him remodel the family basement.

Camp had discovered his calling.

“I think it’s a God-given talent,” he said of the construction arts. “I look at a pile of lumber and I can see your idea sitting there.

“I can’t tell you how much I love to build for people.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

There are two comments on this story »