Dive for cover, in a $36,000 family bomb shelter

BOUNTIFUL -- It sits in the parking lot of the Emergency Essentials store in Bountiful, all but daring you not to stop and stare.

The massive, bright yellow, corrugated metal section of pipeline is 10 feet across and thrice that length, with a few smaller sections of pipe sticking out at various angles. And just in case that's not enough of a draw for the terminally incurious, there's even a banner on the side -- at least there was until the last Bountiful windstorm -- that reads "Tour a 'Bomb Shelter' ... Atlas Survival Shelters."

Bomb shelter?

Trust us, you want to tour this.

"My shelters have been global news the last two years," says Ron Hubbard, president and CEO of Atlas Survival Shelters, based out of Los Angeles. Think of it, he says, as an insurance policy that can be buried in the ground.

"It is nothing more than an insurance policy," Hubbard explains. "You hope you never use it, but this is insurance for your No. 1 asset -- your family."

Hubbard had been looking for a place to display a model shelter in Utah. The Beehive State is a top consumer of his product.

"Utah is a major market for us," he said. "For the amount of shelters in the ground, it's probably No. 2 in the country."

Texas gets more publicity in the doomsday survival business, but Hubbard says there's a reason that most companies making survival supplies are based in Utah.

"Utah is the prepper state," he said.

Last year, Hubbard hooked up with the people at Emergency Essentials, an Orem-based company with four locations in northern Utah, to display one of his shelters in front of the Bountiful store. Although Emergency Essentials doesn't sell the shelters, and merely refers interested customers to Atlas, the arrangement is "mutually beneficial," according to Dean Hale, director of marketing for Emergency Essentials.

Haley Williams, store supervisor for the Bountiful store, says the bomb shelter arrived on a flatbed truck sometime around the end of August.

Why the Bountiful store?

"All our other stores share a parking lot," she said. "We're the only ones with our own parking lot."

And the yellow shelter has been quite popular, according to Williams. Tours are offered, and they get multiple requests each day to see the inside of it.

"We've even had Scouting groups come through and tour it," she said.

Valorie Hoskins, a professional preparedness consultant with the Bountiful store, says lots of folks come by and take family photos next to the bomb shelter. And, she notes, reaction to its presence has been largely gender-specific.

"Women are like, 'Kill me now,' Hoskins said. "Men are like ... 'Man cave!' "

One customer even got angry when store employees wouldn't allow him to tour it during a summer thunderstorm.

"It's metal!" Hoskins says. "In a lightning thunderstorm!"

The Ford of shelters

Hubbard says he's been referred to as the Henry Ford of survival shelters, insisting he's brought affordable survival shelters to the masses.

"If you can afford to buy a second car, or a boat, you can afford a shelter," Hubbard says. "And that wasn't always the case."

Hubbard says his shelters aren't just some dank, dark hole in the ground. In addition to things like a decontamination shower, blast hatch and full NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) air filtering system, they also feature a fridge, microwave, flat-screen TV, full bathroom, "master bedroom" and more.

Time was, such survival shelters were only for the wealthy, according to Hubbard. His shelters start at $35,900, and top out at $85,900.

"I make shelters so nice that more than half of the people who put them in live at least a part of the year in them," Hubbard said. "It's just like buying a pre-manufactured house, but this one is designed to be buried in the ground."

Atlas Survival Shelters began in 2011. When it started, Hubbard was simply looking for a shelter for his family.

"Everything was either too plain and simple, or over-priced," he said. "... I wanted an interior as comfortable as a house, but I didn't want to spend a fortune."

The display model in Bountiful is one of the company's smaller ones -- just 30 feet long. Normally, Hubbard says, they're 51 feet long.

'Duck Preppers'?

And Hubbard has big plans for the future of his company. He hopes to display more bomb shelters -- a second display shelter is scheduled to be set up soon in Draper -- and he's in the early stages of developing "private prepper communities" around the country. These communities would be similar to a gated community or RV park -- but all the residences are buried 10 feet down. And Hubbard says there are plans this summer for a new reality television show on "a major network" that will deal with one of these new communities. He describes it as "Duck Dynasty" meets "Doomsday Preppers."

The reasons people consider buying a survival shelter are varied, according to Hubbard. Terrorist attack, nuclear explosion, World War III, civil unrest, pandemic -- the list goes on.

"The typical reason is for what people are afraid of in the U.S. -- the collapse of American civilization as we know it," he said. "They're looking toward the future."

Hubbard warns that if things don't change politically in this country, he believes it will "end in a civil war that will dwarf the one in 1862." He encourages anyone who can afford it to consider a survival shelter.

"When the president of the United States is threatened, they grab him by the neck, throw him down an elevator and put him in a bunker," Hubbard said. "If it's good enough for the president, it's good enough for you."

And while Hubbard realizes some see "preppers" as nuts, he calls it simply being ready for the future.

"There is nothing crazy about this," he said. "It's like having an underground cabin that just happens to be bomb-proof."

Contact reporter Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/mark.saal.

Black Blade: Thinking of expanding my Wyoming cabin and this could be the ticket. A dual purpose addition to the house. A entry way to the shelter that serves as an additional couple of bedrooms with contained living center and storage. This seems somewhat attractive.