March 24, 2011 -- A massive earthquake. A giant tsunami. Escalating turmoil in the Middle East. Unusual energy in the Milky Way. Dire predictions about the end of the world next year. Put all of that together and, if you are in the underground bunker business, your business is booming.
"It's crazy. It is," says Brian Camden, CEO of Hardened Structures, a Virginia Beach, Va., company that designs and builds fortified homes and underground shelter systems.
"I thought I cleared my in-box last night," Camden says. "Shoot, there were 37 more today."
It appears there is a run on fallout and bomb shelters lately. Many people in California are worried about nuclear radiation from the earthquake damaged reactors in Japan. Camden says he is seeing an increase in orders for the Nuclear, Radiation, Biological (NBC) tents that he sells. They are not cheap at $9,500 each.
Most of his customers, however, are ordering fortified homes with underground storage, living space and escape tunnels. But it is not nuclear radiation or terrorist with weapons of mass destruction most clients are worried about.
"Nuclear Armageddon went out with the collapse of the Soviet Union," Camden tells ABC News. "Fifty-five per cent of our work is geared toward economic collapse."
His most popular items look just like regular houses, but they are built to withstand being hit with rounds from an AK-47 and are fire-resistant. They also come with an underground bunker pre-stocked with food and supplies. They usually include an emergency escape tunnel. These structures, apparently, are big sellers either as primary residences or, says Camden, "as vacation homes."
Other underground bunker companies are seeing the same kind of increase in business, especially as Dec. 21, 2012 draws nearer. That is the day the world is supposed to end. At least, that is what a lot of people who believe in the Mayan calendar say.
Camden says the underground, reinforced concrete facilities his company designs and builds "are primarily 2012, end-of-the-world-as-you-know-it kind of stuff." He calls that his biggest product "with regard to blast over pressure." Hardened Structures is currently building six of them, from South Africa to Colorado.
Another company, Vivos, which says it builds large underground complexes, is capitalizing on 2012 mania with a web site that is actually counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to "the end of times."
Camden can probably thank NASA and the European Space Agency for some of the uptick in his business. He says the Fermi Space Telescope captured images of a very large concentration of energy in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. It was energy that many experts had said was not suppose to be there. Combine that discovery with the belief by some that the equators of the earth and sun will line up with the Milky Way on 12/21/12, Camden says, "So, now you have the 2012 people saying, I told you so." And his phone began to ring off the hook.
Does he believe the world is soon to end? He has what he calls a very simple philosophy. "The client's priorities," Camden says, "are our priorities. We don't subscribe to any kind of scenario. After doing it for 20 years, " he adds, " the only thing we know for sure, is that no one knows what's going to happen."