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Anyone who has trained in the art of preparedness can tell you that the difference between enduring a survival scenario with the absolute bare-bones essentials versus enjoying even just a few minor creature comforts can be the difference between merely surviving the trial as opposed to comfortably living through the event. This variable of comfort extends to all aspects of one’s preparedness plan, not the least of which includes survival shelters.

Oftentimes, images of low ceilings, drab grey walls, garish fluorescent lighting and crates of barely edible canned rations stacked next to steel-welded folding bunks is what is conjured when envisioning a typical survival shelter or “doomsday bunker.” In a way, perhaps subconsciously, it might seem fitting to just accept the prospect of rather grim surroundings in a survival situation. After all, it beats the alternative of no shelter at all, right? But if you’re planning to endure tough times and seeking refuge may be required, given the option and opportunity, wouldn’t you rather stick it out in as much comfort and style as possible? That seems to be precisely what one self-made entrepreneur reasoned when investing millions of his own dollars into the development of a massive state-of-the-art luxury underground shelter network that is now poised to span the globe. Enter Robert Vicino, the intensely charismatic, doomsday-marketing mastermind behind The Vivos Project.

Envisioning Survival

Vivos pays homage to all end-times cultures, predictions, philosophies and possibilities equally and indiscriminately, which is in line with Vicino’s mantra, “We built our shelters to withstand not one threat, but to withstand everything,” as well as his personal belief that a domino effect of related disaster events will ultimately result in what many refer to as a “doomsday scenario” in this country.

Contrary to the doom-and-gloom preconception that might be likened to a doomsday-preneur, the potential for a wide range of doomsday scenarios unfolding were discussed very matter-of-factly, with the underlying positive solution to our species’ sustainability revolving around Vivos being echoed throughout. The term “Vivos” means “to live” in Latin, and that is exactly what Vicino intends to do, right alongside a diverse group of other select survivors in one of his posh subterranean fortified shelter installations should hell, high water or anything in between be the end-game for the rest of humanity. And yes, it is a private party—by invitation, or approval, only.

The Post-Apocalyptic Community

One must apply to become a member or co-owner of a Vivos property, and the Vivos Risk Management Team reviews each candidate’s information for skill sets and attributes to determine which will ultimately contribute to making for a well-rounded community. The Vivos website candidly points out that “The objective is to have as much diversity as possible in each Vivos community. We don’t want all doctors and no plumbers, or electricians. That could be a real disaster.” The company website also emphasizes this diversity, and the acceptance of all cultures and religious outlooks, as a core attribute of Vivos community culture itself.

A rigorous screening process for candidates based on desirable skills and backgrounds, as well as a price-tag that may be unattainable for many, are among the factors that Vicino admits often irks candidates on both sides of the respective prepper fence. He makes no bones about often having differences of opinion with a largely grassroots community of DIY “preppers” when it comes to general survival philosophy.

“People think because they’ve got their camo gear, their guns, their food, and their water and fuel that they’re all set. Well, putting that bag of rice over your head isn’t going to save you from these kinds of big disaster events,” declared Vicino.

Vicino recites one of his favorite quotes when it comes to the art and trade of designing doomsday shelters and embracing heightened situational awareness: “Sticking your head in the sand won’t save your butt that’s sticking out above…” In short, anything shy of complete and comprehensive Vivos-level protection is not going to provide adequate survivability against potential threats and the resulting fallout that most merely think they are prepared for.

Applications come into the Vivos network from all manner of prospective clientele, and it’s not debating the merits of bags of rice, but rather bags of cash, which often gives Vicino the greatest headache. “It’s very frustrating to me to have to deal with some of the people that we have to deal with in this business. Some are very wealthy, and because of that they think that they are in charge and it’s their way or the highway.”

But it doesn’t seem that financial gain was ever the motivating factor behind the Vivos development. Vicino’s vision for the Vivos installations seems genuinely rooted in a deep ethos, as it relies not only on reinforced limestone, concrete, rebar and steel, but on the community and personal philosophy upon which the entire system and network he has devised to ensure its operation revolves. Much of this is shrouded in secrecy, however, even as the second of the Vivos community shelters nears the final phases of outfitting.

Building the Bunker

Only two such specific locations within the Vivos shelter network have been disclosed publicly and made available to the media, and even then, reporters are blindfolded, stripped of cell phones and GPS-enabled devices and sworn to secrecy by signing legally binding non-disclosure agreements. Located within a one-day drive from “anywhere in the Midwest and the Eastern seaboard of America,” the fully functional Vivos Indiana location is described as “one of the most fortified, nuclear hardened shelters within the network.”

The structure itself was actually a Cold War-era government bunker that could withstand a 20-megaton blast. Vicino purchased the relic, gutted it down to its basic framework and has now completely rebuilt and refurnished the space in four-star hotel décor to accommodate up to 80 people for a minimum duration of one year of fully autonomous survival  without needing to return to the surface. Completely outfitted, the living spaces are now fully stocked with “food, toiletries, linens, medical supplies, a one-year supply of fuel, a deep water well, NBC filtration systems, geothermal heating and cooling, private bedroom suites, full- size showers and bathrooms, a theater, dining areas, lounge areas, exercise equipment, kennels, a garden area for fresh vegetables, laundry, abundant storage areas, ATVs, bicycles, tools, a workshop, security devices and just about everything else that may be needed to ride out virtually any catastrophic event,” per the company’s website.

“Our greatest defense is secrecy, just like the U.S. government. They have the defenses and force of the military to protect their shelters at the moment of truth, yet even they don’t admit the existence or locations of their shelters,” parallels Vicino. It’s clear that ensuring the continued secrecy of the Vivos locations is a point of pride, second only to the amount of research and foresight that was invested into the selection of the sites themselves, taking into account all aspects of regional disaster planning.

Describing the process of site selection, Vicino muses that “There is no absolute safe place in America, or in the world quite frankly. I’ve looked at them all. Every single place on the planet is vulnerable to at least one threat or another, and we’re all vulnerable to things that come from space.”

Vivos notes that there are only a few remaining memberships for the Indiana location, and pricing is currently listed at “$50,000 per adult, and $35,000 per child; however, substantial discounts are available to medical, military, security, financing and mechanical experts.”

The Vivos Kansas underground complex envelops over 2 million square feet of existing shelter area. Still in development and being outfitted with the requisite survival supplies and accommodations, this installation is labeled as the “Vivos Survival Shelter & Resort” and will accommodate up to 5,000 people for a minimum of one year of autonomous survival. This shelter’s structure location is nearly 130 feet below a mountain surface, carved into solid limestone, and possesses a strength of over six times that of concrete. In a stroke of doomsday marketing savvy, Vicino has devised a way that the property can turn a profit and serve as an educational experience year-round by opening it as a survivalist resort, offering to its co-owner members the opportunity to visit the shelter any time they desire and by offering a roster of survival, educational and recreational activities and amenities. By enabling the Kansas shelter installation to function as a year-round resort, the members will be able to capitalize on their non-disaster-related visits by taking the time to “meet and get to know each other and create bonds and a true sense of community.” It’s never a bad idea to get to know your neighbors ahead of time, especially if you’re going to be locked underground with them and taking part as a member of humanity’s last hope. One of the most unique features of the Kansas shelter is that members can actually drive their full-sized recreational trailers or motor homes directly inside it, and there is enough space for more than 1,000 such vehicles. Members without RVs also have the option of purchasing a fully furnished, private Vivos suite or Vivos Tent Cabin within the shelter.

DIY Shelter Solutions

As a response to inquiries and overwhelming consumer demand for a superior individual DIY shelter solution, Vicino mentions the newly launched line of shelter solutions, called the Vivos Quantum Shelter In A Box. This cost-effective shelter solution for customers allows them to order shipments of proprietary, customized shelter components and plans that are then delivered to your doorstep via Fed-Ex or UPS and can be assembled by customers who have access to basic construction skills and supplies, such as concrete, rebar and lumber. A round internal structure is essentially encapsulated in a foot and a half of formed rebar and concrete. The compressive strength is provided by the geometry of the structure. Once settled, you furnish the Quantum Shelter as you see fit. The Quantum shelters are modular by design, and the basic Quantum Shelter In A Box can be built complete for about $30,000 (30 feet long/9 feet in diameter), which accommodates four people with storage for enough food for one year.

Whether your interest in a survival shelter stems from concerns over the possibility of all-out thermonuclear global warfare, an F5 category super storm, or a potential home-invasion scenario, one thing is certain: All survival shelters are not created equal, and few serve to cover as many bases as Vivos does.

Heed the Warnings

Vicino leaves our interview with this bit of advice when it comes to preparedness: “A false alarm is better than no alarm at all. You may go to your shelter 10 times in your lifetime under what turns out to be a false alarm, but if only one of those times happens to be the real thing and you got there in time before the event spreads, avoiding becoming a victim…it was worth it.” Prepare sooner rather than later. And even if investing in a Vivos shelter isn’t in your future, research your shelter options, understand the potential threats that are prominent to your geographic area and make the best possible plan for seeking the safest shelter available. As the age-old preparedness adage goes: The only time to prepare is before the event occurs.  For more information, visit terravivos.com.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE TM Fall 2014 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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