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.
Raven Rock Mountain ComplexPhoto: Google Earth
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 BunkerPhoto: 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.
The Vice President's BunkerPhoto: US Vice President's office / Public Domain
During the Gridiron Dinner, in a room full of media representatives, Joe Biden let slip the location of the secret bunker the vice president goes to in case of an emergency. It's under the old US Naval Observatory where the Veep lives. Biden described a hideaway behind a massive steel door and filled with communications equipment.
Fox News reports this is probably where Dick Cheney was hidden during the 9/11 attacks, though if this is true, he must be able to teleport or bifurcate, since he was also in the White House.
Cheyenne Mountain ComplexPhoto: Photographer Unknown / Public Domain
Carved into the Rocky mountains of Colorado, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex military base is very close to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) HQ. Designed to withstand a nuclear blast, the facility monitors the skies constantly for threats. It's owned and operated by the Air Force Space Command, and is completely self-sustaining, with its own power plant, heating, and cooling system, and water supply.
It is a level one security designation, more secure than the Pentagon.