I volunteered in an event that I saw us sleeping in an Air Raid Shelter. Usually, when participating in this event we sleep in an empty summer camp as it has free rooms before the summer activities start. From the summer camp, we have nice views from the balcony and rooms for three or four people. In the air-raid shelters, there was space for 36 people to sleep per room.
The first night we slept in the shelter the front door was left open, as were all the metal concrete doors so the bunker was cold and noisy. The “windows” were nothing more than ventilation shafts that could act as emergency exits.
Initially, this looked like it would be a harsh and possibly unpleasant experience if things had been as they were on the first night. By the second night, the front door was closed, as was the concrete door to the room. I would have closed it on the first night but worried that it would make people claustrophobic. They asked to close it and I agreed.
By having so many people in such a small space two positive things happened. The first is that we couldn’t recharge all of our devices and cellular coverage was weak. Both of these factors resulted in all of us spending a lot of time together. It might be the most convivial atmosphere I have experienced between volunteers.
If you have slept in a mountain refuge then these beds are the same. They are thin mattresses just one person wide. They are set up as single unit bunkbeds with space for twelve people on three rows. This equates to 32 person in a single room. The bed frame itself moves as people move. If you sleep in the top bunks you will feel every movement people make. If you sleep on the bottom bunk you will feel less motion so if you get motion sickness stay on the lower bunk. Sleeping bags are essential.
When we were in the shelter we were advised to put one mattress, one on top of the other, to make it softer and more pleasant. The space between mattresses could then be used for bags and other possessions. With an external battery, you can charge your devices as you sleep.
I expected the showers to be cold but they were nice and warm and easier to adjust than many of the showers I have used in hotels. The floor is bare concrete and the showers had nowhere to hang dry clothes so I improvised with shoes as a shelf.
As this bunker can take over 200 people and several dozen people per room it is recommended to take a shower before going to sleep. In this way you can mitigate the consequences of so many people living in such a cramped space.
When I checked a thermometer in one of the rooms it indicated that the room was at 20°c. It feels cold enough to need a sleeping bag and pyjamas. The temperature was relatively comfortable with the sleeping bag I had.
If 32 people were sleeping in a single room then the room would probably be uncomfortable due to snoring, sleep talkers and others. There are two sets of showers. One of them is between two rooms and could only be used when everyone was awake and the second set could be used at any time of day or night.
At least twice a day you hear the sound of the ventilation system come on to circulate air.
There is only one plug per room so multipliers are important.
Sleeping well in a bunker is possible, especially when it is not filled to capacity. By sharing a bedroom with three or more people friendships form. As the rooms are so empty of luxuries it encourages people to spend time in the common room and socialise before going to sleep. Groups become close and I’d equate the experience to being more like university. On the first day, everyone is a stranger and by the last day, everyone knows everyone else.
The cost for shelters varies depending on the size and equipment. This bunker costs just 5 CHF per person to use. That’s affordable for almost all budgets, as long as you don’t mind being several meters underground in a room with a thick concrete door and mixed showers and toilets.
The experience was good and I’m going to miss having people to socialise with. During this event, I hardly touched social media, as I was so busy with people in the physical world. By accident, I had a social media detox.