Close menu

Emergency Government Headquarters

Updated: 2017-07-14T16:29Z
Conference room at the CFS Carp bunker, 30 km west of Ottawa
Teletype Corp Model 40 Terminals at the CEGHQ, CFS Carp

Emergency Government Headquarters are nuclear fallout bunkers built by the Government of Canada at the height of the Cold War during the infancy of the ICBM threat. Scattered across the country, the shelters are popularly known as "Diefenbunkers", a nickname coined by Liberal opposition politicians of the early 1960s, and was derived from the name of the Prime Minister of the day, John Diefenbaker, who authorized their construction. Over fifty bunkers were built, including the many redundant Relocation Unit locations as well as retrofitted buildings that comprised many Zone Emergency Government Headquarters locations.

Most of these facilities were built, often in great secrecy, at rural locations outside major cities across Canada. The majority of the larger facilities were two-storey underground bunkers while the largest at CFS Carp had four floors; these facilities were designed to withstand a near-miss from a nuclear explosion. Each underground facility had entrances through massive blast doors at the surface, as well as extensive air filters and positive air pressure to prevent radiation infiltration. Underground storage was built for food, fuel, fresh water, and other supplies for the facilities which were capable of supporting several dozen people for a period of several weeks.



The largest "Diefenbunker" was located at CFS Carp in the village of Carp west of Ottawa, within the National Capital Region. In the event of a nuclear event, it was expected to shelter many of the most important federal civil servants and politicians and senior military officials. This location was the second chosen. The original location was approximately six miles west of Almonte at 45°15′7″N 76°19′32″W / 45.25194°N 76.32556°W / 45.25194; -76.32556. That site was abandoned when ground water proved impossible to remove. There have been rumors that a tunnel leading to an alternate exit/entrance of the bunker was dug under the Ottawa River. This entrance was said to be in Pontiac or Aylmer, Quebec.[citation needed] However, this entrance was never discovered.

Central Emergency Government Headquarters, located in Carp, Ontario, in the National Capital Region. Designed for use by senior federal politicians, civil servants, and monarchy. 45°21′8.35″N 76°2′53.61″W / 45.3523194°N 76.0482250°W / 45.3523194; -76.0482250
Regional Emergency Government Headquarters, of which there were seven, spread out across the country. Each of these had a RU backup bunker (see below).
Nanaimo, British Columbia (CFS Nanaimo) – REGHQ
Penhold, Alberta (CFS Penhold) – REGHQ
Shilo, Manitoba (CFB Shilo) – REGHQ
Borden, Ontario (CFB Borden) – REGHQ
Valcartier, Quebec (CFB Valcartier) – REGHQ
Debert, Nova Scotia (CFS Debert) – REGHQ
Interim Regional Emergency Government Headquarters
Municipal Emergency Government Headquarters There were also MEGHQs and ZEGHQs in Canada, not supervised by the federal government to help with rescue and reconstruction efforts over time of crisis.
Zone Emergency Government Headquarters, built within the basements of existing buildings, generally designed to hold around 70 staff.
Relocation Unit, or CRU, Central Relocation Unit. Often bunkers built as redundant backups to REGHQs and MEGHQs were given the RU designation. Similar sites were chosen to accompany the REGHQs elsewhere in Canada. These would be located in close proximity to the REGHQs. These Regional Relocation Units (RRUs) would be used as a backup to the larger equivalent (for redundancy)

Other bunkers in Ontario included Central Relocation Units (CRUs) to supplement the CEGHQ. These were not "true" bunkers for the fact that they were simply reinforced underground rooms located in basements of post offices and other federal government installations. They were connected by phone and teletypewriter lines to the main bunker at CFS Carp. They were located in:

Communication Bunkers


Douglas Stewart, head engineer for the Canadian National Defence, was key to the design and engineering for the Diefenbunkers.[citation needed]

Decommissioning and legacy

Following the end of the Cold War, most of the Diefenbunkers were decommissioned. Several of the facilities on active Canadian Forces Bases, such as CFB Borden and CFB Valcartier, remain in government control. Diefenbunkers located on smaller Canadian Forces Stations were mostly sold off or demolished.

The only Diefenbunker which members of the public may visit is the one at former CFS Carp, which stood down in 1994 and has been converted into a year-round Cold War museum. However, the Canadian military cleared out the bunker as it was decommissioned, so the museum has had to try to reacquire the original furnishings that were disposed of.

A Diefenbunker located at CFS Debert was opened for tours for several years. As of 2005 it was home to the cadet regional gliding school in the summer, and was also occasionally used as a barracks by military units in transit across Nova Scotia. In 2009, it was sold to a data firm. The bunker has since been bought by another individual and is now used for data storage. Occasionally, tours are still privately given based on information gathered at the Debert Military Museum.

One interesting footnote surrounds the Diefenbunker that was located at CFS Penhold in Alberta. This facility was decommissioned and at one point a movie studio expressed interest, but it was ultimately purchased by a member of the public. When subsequent owners of the Penhold Diefenbunker advertised the facility for resale, there was a rumour that a chapter of an outlaw biker gang, possibly the Hells Angels, was expressing interest. This prompted the federal government to repurchase the facility and have it systematically demolished and hauled away at considerable expense.

In popular culture

The film The Sum of All Fears has a scene that was shot on location at CFS Carp's Diefenbunker. The scene consisted of the President of the United States, James Cromwell, and his political advisors performing a war game scenario.

The finale of the second season of The Amazing Race Canada featured a task completed at CFS Carp's Diefenbunker. One member of each team had to search among the bunker's vast array of rooms for three of five hidden souvenirs: a helicopter, a tank, a jeep, a plane, and a compass.

See also


External links

Coordinates: 45°21′06″N 76°02′50″W / 45.35167°N 76.04722°W / 45.35167; -76.04722

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Wikipedia is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Also On Wow


    Trending Now