Vivos bunker project regrets publicity
More security challenges in apocalypse
BARSTOW • A bunker in a remote stretch of desert near Barstow is billed as a place where those wanting the ultimate in protection against a world-ending catastrophe can hunker down for the worst without giving up the comforts of home.
A two-year publicity frenzy, however, may have made that more difficult, Vivos Project officials say.
The group, founded by timeshare real estate salesman Robert Vicino of Del Mar, once granted media tours to news outlets from across the nation. They were profiled in the Los Angeles Times in 2010, where a reporter described meeting Vicino at a sleepy desert gas station before being driven to the facility, which contained none of the luxury advertised online.
But today the group declines requests for media tours, feeling burned by all the attention.
Not all media organizations have been respectful of the organization’s strict desire for secrecy, a spokesperson explained. A San Diego television station recently visited the bunker, but was not allowed to enter.
In an email, the spokesperson, Barbi Grossman, explained that the group’s desire for publicity ultimately made the task of securing the facility more difficult.
“The site was ultimately compromised by several media, leading to high levels of local awareness of the shelter,” Grossman wrote. “Rumors circulated through the Internet with attempts to pinpoint the exact shelter location.”
She went on to explain that the challenge in the event of an apocalypse would be to protect the site from hordes of displaced people who would flock to the location and demand to be let in.
“Vivos will now incur an excessive amount of added security measures to defend this site from possible marauders when our co-owner members need to gain access to their private shelter,” Grossman wrote. “Through this experience, Vivos has determined that there is no secure way to allow media tours of our other private shelters without also risking their becoming compromised.”
The Barstow shelter’s website says the facility will sell out to 132 people who will be protected from catastrophes ranging from global tsunami, nuclear fallout and floods.
The property, owned by a company called TSG Investments of Portland, Ore., was once a Cold War-era government communications center, according to media reports. Property records show it was purchased from AT&T in 2006. The Vivos Project apparently leases the facility.
According to Google Maps, it is slightly more than an hour’s drive from Barstow, or a 23-hour walk if a lack of gasoline, electromagnetic pulse attack, or roads blocked by abandoned vehicles due to a zombie apocalypse has made motorized transportation impossible.
The organization’s website shows computer animations of luxurious underground digs, but there is no record of any permits for renovations to the facility in decades, according to officials at the San Bernardino County Building and Planning Office. The company’s website says it will be finished by fall 2012.
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