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Inside a Secret Government Warehouse Prepped for the End of the World

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Manganese that is part of the U.S. strategic materials stockpile, is stored in a large quantity in this warehouse. (Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Manganese is stored in large quantities in this warehouse as part of the U.S. strategic materials stockpile. (Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)


It’s sort of like that warehouse from the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Ark of the Covenant gets packed away and hidden among thousands of other unassuming crates with possible unknown treasures. The only difference is this particular warehouse could be used to save thousand of lives if catastrophe struck.

The National Strategic Stockpile is a series of secret warehouses strategically located and stocked with items that might be helpful in an emergency. These items range from burn cream and ventilators to smallpox vaccines, chemical agent antidotes, and antivirals. Each warehouse (of which there are at least six) is prepared to ship 50 tons of material in response to a disaster within 12 hours. While not everything in the warehouse is public information (even the location and exact number of them is kept secret), one stockpile employee estimated the value of the goods stored at around $7 billion. NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce was the first journalist to ever go inside one of the secret facilities. Listen to her story below.