Nuclear shelter in Arizona: A rare tour of the state's Cold War relics

The crisis in Ukraine has brought back many memories of the Cold War and the fears of nuclear winter, and the relics of that era are still around us.

We're taking a rare look into Arizona's Cold War history, and seeing why we might be the most prepared state for a nuclear emergency.

At the height of the Cold War, Papago Buttes was home to an incredibly important structure. The Maricopa County board of supervisors, the Phoenix City Councilors would run behind a blast door to stay safe and keep the government running.

From the top of the Butte, it’s just a doorway, but down below, it’s history.

"It’s literally built into the side of Papago Butte," said Ron Coleman with the Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management. He gave FOX 10 a tour of the 1950s fallout shelter and the remnants left behind.

Original bandages, supplies, gas masks, World War II-era cots, cases of the original emergency drinking water. All, a bleak reality of surviving nuclear fallout.

"These were if water ran out or depending on the amount of people you had down here," Coleman said.

This is where county and city governments would run things during the Cold War if the bomb dropped. Coleman says there’s renewed public interest in retired fallout shelters after Russia’s President declared a nuclear alert amid the war in Ukraine.

Coleman’s advice for everyone is the same as if the risk were floods or wildfires.

"What we tell people is be prepared. Have that go bag ready, have prescription papers, have it ready is if you needed to evacuate. You have a plan and are able to do so," Coleman said.

This piece of history has been transformed into the county emergency offices now. Coleman says their team is more prepared for nuclear fallout than most, and it’s thanks to the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

Having America’s largest plant in Arizona means teams prepare for worst-case scenarios.

"So if there were to be a situation, we can monitor folks' radiation doses, monitor what’s happening to them and take actions to get them shelter and keep them safe," Coleman said.

So let’s say there actually is nuclear fallout in the Phoenix area. What should you do?

Don’t come to the Papago Buttes. The best bet is to check real-time information coming in on TV, online, and to your phone.

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