All the Places the President Could Be Sent in the Event of an Apocalypse

Imagine it's doomsday (as one does). As you cower in fear beneath your dining room table, waiting for the inevitable thermonuclear blast or deluge of chemical or biological weaponry, you might wonder, "where does the president go in the apocalypse?" Rest assured, he (or she, maybe?) is in a much better position than you. Chances are, POTUS is at an undisclosed location with hundreds of feet of steel, concrete, and earth standing between him (or her?) and the end of days. Or maybe s/he's flying high above the fracas in a mobile fortress, complete with fighter jet escort.

And it's not just the president who's hiding out in some awesome secret place. Other top officials are whisked away to equally well fortified secret locales.

So where does the president go during an attack? Continuity of government plans are intricate and well rehearsed. While most of the president's bunkers are top secret, these declassified ones were once key presidential hiding spots. They give you a pretty good idea of the size, scope, and secrecy involved in a presidential bunker. A few of them are even still in use, at least on the record.

  • President's Emergency Operations Center

    President's Emergency Operations Center
    Photo: Eric Draper / The White House

    The President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), under the East Wing of the White House, is the first place the president will go in the event of a catastrophic emergency. The underground bunker is designed to withstand a nuclear blast, and is where then-Vice President Dick Cheney met the National Security Council during the September 11, 2001, attacks.

    This is one of many bunkers located in the Washington DC area, and was originally built for FDR during World War II. 

  • The High Point Special Facility (Mount Weather)

    The High Point Special Facility (Mount Weather)
    Photo: Discovery / Youtube

    Built into Mount Weather in Bluemont, VA, the High Point Special Facility is an evacuation point for high-level officials in the event of an emergency. Constructed between 1954 and 1958 by the Eisenhower Administration, it was initially designed to protect the president and his aides from a nuclear attack.

    In addition to the aboveground facilities, there's an underground system of tunnels and bunkers designed to keep the government functioning for as long as need be in the event of a catastrophe. 

  • The Doomsday Plane

    The Doomsday Plane
    Photo: US Air Force / Public Domain

    The E-4B is a plane designed as a mobile communications center for the president and his/her staff during a catastrophic event. A crew stands by 24/7, ready to go at a moment's notice. The plane is a modified 747 capable of traveling 620 miles per hour, 40 mph faster than a normal 747. It can refuel in midair, and stay airborne for days.

    The plane is covered in an electromagnetic pulse shield to prevent its system from being fried in the event of a nuclear blast. It also has a thermo-radiation shield.

  • Offutt Air Force Base

    Offutt Air Force Base
    Photo: Offutt Air Force Base / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    During the 9/11 attacks, then-President George W. Bush left Florida, briefly touched down in Louisiana to address the nation and get out of the air while more attacks may have been imminent, then flew to Offutt Air Force Base, just south of Omaha, NE, smack dab in the middle of the United States. 

    Offutt is home to the E-4 series doomsday planes (there are four of them), the US Strategic Command, and the 55th Wing of the Air Combat Command.

  • Raven Rock Mountain Complex

    Raven Rock Mountain Complex, also known as Site R, is an underground bunker designed to be the US command center in the event of World War III, as a backup for the Pentagon. Located near Blue Ridge Summit, PA, the facility is built into a mountain, and designed to withstand a nuclear blast. It's entirely self-sufficient, with two power plants, multiple underground water reservoirs, and a sophisticated ventilation system.

    It can operate for 30 days with no access to the outside world, and can accommodate 3,000 people.

  • The Greenbrier Resort Bunker

    The Greenbrier Resort Bunker
    Photo: AW Smith News Agency / Public Domain

    Hiding beneath the luxurious Greenbrier Resort near White Sulfur Springs, WV is a bunker designed to handle doomsday scenarios. It was built to house all of Congress in the event of a nuclear strike. The facility was code named Greek Island, and is encased in three feet of steel-reinforced concrete. It could operate fully self-sustained for a month. Greek Island was retired before it was ever used, when its secrecy was blown in a 1992 Washington Post article.

    Details revealed about the top-secret bunker sound like something from a spy movie: for 30 years, a crew of government workers lived in a nearby hotel and maintained the bunker, so it was always ready to receive government officials. This crew pretended to be TV technicians for a nonexistent company called Forsyth Associates. The bunker is open to tourists now.