News & Politics

The Big Shots’ Private Bunker


Among the residents of Washington nervously awaiting attack, there is at least one happy camper. He is Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services, and the man in charge in the event of a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack. Unlike most of his employees, Thompson and his top aides can scurry across the hall to safety inside a newly constructed $3.5 million command center. Probably unique in the city, this HQ has a special ventilation system that will keep Thompson and his ilk safe and sound even if anthrax or gas seep through the rest of the building. Space is also reserved for big shots from the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security Department. As for the rest of Thompson’s employees, they’re pretty much on their own. “It’s a combination of face-to-face communication and loudspeakers,” HHS spokesperson Marc Wolfson explained to the Voice, in describing the evacuation system. “There are what we call ‘essential employees,’ and essential employees are briefed ahead of time and know where they would have to go.” For the rest, Wolfson added, “in general the information would be passed to employees at the time of the event.”

Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Rebecca Winsor

Archive Highlights