By STEVEN NALLEY
The first test of John Campbell’s new invention, the J.C. Bunker Bed, was public.
The Bunker Bed is an alternative to conventional storm shelters which doubles as a bed base, allowing users to duck beneath their beds in the event of a tornado. In collaboration with Wade Incorporated General Manager Bill Beck, Campbell tested the Bunker Bed’s durability by parking a 5,000-pound John Deere tractor on top of a mattress with the Bunker Bed underneath for 30 minutes.
Campbell said he had not tried this before the public test.
“I had enough faith in God that when he gave me this concept, I knew it was going to work,” Campbell said. “We’ve seen more tornadoes over the last several years than we have in the last hundred years, and I don’t think it’s over yet. People can purchase this J.C. Bunker Bed and have a very good chance of walking out alive. There’s nothing in the ceiling of a house (that can fall on the Bunker Bed) that will weigh 5,000 pounds.”
The Bunker Bed survived its first public test March 31 in Mathiston, where Campbell hopes to create jobs through local manufacturing of his new invention.
Campbell said the Bunker Bed did not bend or break for 30 minutes, and balloons placed inside it during the test came out intact. He said other tests, including a national certification test, are forthcoming.
Campbell said he intends to manufacture the bed at the now defunct Red Cap building. He said he intends to raise money for production through YouTube, asking for donations in a manner akin to President Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign. He plans to post the video this week, he said.
“My goal is to raise $1.5 million to manufacture this bed there,” Campbell said. “It can help save lives and create jobs. Hopefully, this will spread around the tornado states like Oklahoma and Texas. We will actually produce the bed right there in Mathiston for Mississippi and perhaps adjoining states like Tennessee, Alabama and maybe Florida and Louisiana.
In the meantime, Campbell said Frost Steel and Sign Company in Mathiston started manufacturing the first run of Bunker Beds April 6. Earl Frost, Mathiston alderman and owner of the company, said he hopes the Bunker Bed will bring jobs and tax dollars to the city.
“If it does what he thinks it will, I know it will,” Frost said. “It seems to be a good idea. I’ve never heard of anything like it. I’m just glad to be a part of this.”
Campbell said he has been trying to come up with a tornado shelter concept for two years. The conventional advice to get in the bathtub or closet does not protect people from falling debris, he said, so he wanted to create something more akin to a cabinet. One day, he said, inspiration struck.
“The spirit of God told me to get my tape measure and measure my bed,” Campbell said. “All that day, I worked on (the concept). Four to five weeks later, I worked with East Mississippi Community College and the welding and carpenters’ department. They actually helped me to build the prototype.”
Campbell said two grown adults can fit underneath a king-size Bunker Bed, which weighs 1,000 pounds and will cost less than $3,000. Other storm shelters can cost $3,000-$10,000, he said. Different sizes are available, he said, and Bunker Beds can be bolted to floors in homes with concrete foundations.
“You have two doors on each side,” Campbell said. “You crawl into it. Inside, you could store your important papers, jewelry, anything you would think would get blown away in a tornado. It also comes with a light that operates with a AA battery. In the event of a tornado, instead of anticipating what’s going to happen, you could actually sleep under this bed all night.”
Campbell said he was grateful to former GSDP President Jon Maynard for helping him get the Bunker Bed project off the ground, and he is grateful to several others who have helped him or agreed to help him. One special guest Campbell has on board is G.C. Cameron, a former singer in the Temptations who said he has known Campbell since the early ’90s.
Cameron said he loves the product and intends to write a jingle for it.
“Hurricanes and tornadoes are becoming far more prevalent than they ever were, so this commodity John has come up with is very necessary and very well needed by so many people,” Cameron said. “For those who are not able to build shelters, this is the perfect option for them.
I think it’s a brilliant, unselfish endeavor on his behalf to reach out to people who need that kind of help.”