Prepare for Real-World Emergencies—Not Doomsday

Aerial view of "Bruco: The Texas Italian Caterpillar.".

Bruco: The Texas Italian Caterpillar is—according to the Texas Chamber of Commerce—the second most recognizable landmark in Texas. Big Tex at Fair Park is first. Bruco is the manufacturing plant for Monolithic Airform Manufacturing at the Monolithic Dome Research Park.

Mike South

It’s a funny quirk of the internet when old things become new. So it was today when my newsfeed brought up an old Dallas Observer article about The Monolithic Dome Institute Is Preparing for the End of Times. Fun article, but it missed the point. We aren’t preparing for the end times; we are preparing for the end … of a good book, curled up on the couch, peacefully reading while a storm rages outside.

In 2016, Mollie Jamison came to the Monolithic Dome Research park, visited with Gary Clark, and toured the property—including the I-35E landmark, Bruco: The Texas Italian Caterpillar.

“The Taj Mahal, Texas State Capitol and Roman Pantheon put dome-shaped structures on the map,” Jamison wrote, “but now people are using those same design elements to build doomsday shelters.”

Doomsday invokes disaster movie plots of the zombie apocalypse, meteorites crashing, red dawn invasions, giant earthquakes, and impossible storms. Maybe one of these things might happen in my lifetime, but it’s more likely I’ll win the lottery—and I don’t even play the lottery.

No, we don’t prepare for doomsday. We prepare for real-world, practical emergencies.

Exterior of Callisto dome home.

We slept through many storm warnings in our house on the pond, Callisto.

Dave South

Sleeping during tornado warnings

When the weather service issues a tornado warning for the Dallas metroplex, millions of people must stay up late, watching the news, wondering if they should run for shelter. Will their house be hit? Maybe? It’s not likely, but it could. If it is, the house may be destroyed. A tornado may not destroy any homes, but the stress caused by the storm will keep millions awake.

When we lived in the Callisto in Texas, my wife, three children, and I would go to bed during tornado warnings.

The Oberon two-bedroom dome home.

The Oberon is a 32-foot diameter, two-bedroom home in Italy, Texas. It’s cooled with a small AC unit on top of the dome. One day it started to feel a bit warm. It took most of the day—in July—to realize the AC was broken.

Dave South

Keeping cool without AC

In the 1990s, a passing truck yanked the powerline from the roof of the traditional home we were living in at the time. It was the dog days of summer in Texas and in a few hours, the place was unlivable. Extreme heat causes more deaths than any other extreme weather in the United States. We had to abandon our home until the power was restored.

When the AC went out in our Monolithic Dome home, we didn’t notice for 12 hours even though it was over 100 degrees outside. It was 36 hours before the house became almost, but not quite, too hot. They fixed the AC by then. We never had to leave home.

The metal clad Monolithic Dome office in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The 60-foot diameter Monolithic Dome office on Telford Road in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The heater was being repaired and turned off when a blizzard hit the region.


Warmth during a blizzard

As a young man in Idaho, a blizzard pushed snow to the top of our front door. The entire region was shut down for a week. Temperatures plunged to 20 degrees below zero. We never lost power at our dome home, but the heater was down at the Monolithic Dome office thirty miles away.

Every night for a week it was sub-zero temperatures. When we returned to the office, the temperature inside only dropped 10 degrees—from 70 to 60 degrees. No water pipes broke. Nothing was damaged. We could have safely lived in that dome during the emergency.

Wildfire flames loom over the Braswell Monolithic Dome home.

A giant wildfire overran the Braswell residence in Yucaipa, California. The out-buildings were badly damaged or destroyed, but the Monolithic Dome home was fine.

The Braswells

No fire can overcome

We like to watch fireworks from a patch of land in front of our dome home in Utah. I looked down the hill and saw a fire. Afraid it was started by fireworks, I ran to our home for a fire extinguisher and climbed down the hill. Fortunately, it was a campfire, hidden in the woods behind someone’s house. They had it safely contained in a metal basin and tended by an adult.

Had it been a wildfire, it would’ve raced up the dry grass on the hill and probably destroyed our neighbor’s home and threatened the entire neighborhood.

I was never worried about our house. If you stacked cordwood all around our dome home, lit it on fire, and let it burn to the coals, my house would still be there—discolored but undamaged. Monolithic Domes have survived wildfires and forest fires with flames reaching 50 feet in the air.

Faith Chapel Word Dome in Birmingham, Alabama.

Practical preparation extends beyond homes. Monolithic Domes are ideal community storm shelters. There are purpose-built safe rooms dotting the midwest, but even the standard Monolithic Dome is incredibly resilient. The 270-foot diameter Faith Chapel Word Dome (picture) is part of a seven-dome complex hit by an EF4 Tornado. The $51 million facility only sustained cosmetic damage.

Peace in preparation

That’s the peace a Monolithic Dome gives. It’s not about doomsday or the end of the world. It’s about the 72 hours your need to survive until help comes. It’s about having a living space that protects you through the bad times as well as the good.

And, of course, if there ever were a zombie apocalypse, it would be good for that, too.

View of Arcadia Dome Home in Providence, Utah.

Our home, Arcadia, looks like three domes atop a wall, but it is one-piece Monolithic Dome construction. Start a bonfire against the home and it’ll just char the exterior.

Dave South