A Vault is a type of subterranean installation designed by Vault-Tec. Officially, they were designed for the sole purpose of sheltering up to one thousand dwellers from a nuclear holocaust. But in reality, they were used as a secret experiment for the government.


The vaults are all very similar in their basic functions, but sometimes were constructed according to different designs. The vaults of the West Coast differ from those constructed in the vicinity of Washington, DC and the Mojave area.

The entrance houses the Vault's only connection to the outside world - the airlock (with the exception of Vault 19 and Vault 87).

It is closed from the inside by a reinforced high-security door and from the outside by a massive, gear-shaped, four-foot thick vault door. For most vaults this the only means of entering or leaving. (Only Vault 87 and Vault 19 had any other entrances.) Most vaults have consoles located on both the inside and outside, either of which requires a security code to open the outer door. These codes are usually only known to a handful of people within the facility so as to prevent unauthorized exits. The automated narrator in Washington DC's Museum of Technology states that the vault doors had a projected 2% failure rate in case of a direct hit by a nuclear missile. The only known vault to have been hit by a nuclear weapon is Vault 87, and according to the logs of its overseer, that blast damaged the door beyond repair. This could have been merely a "lucky shot" falling within the 2% failure, but it seems more likely that Vault-Tec's strength projections were incorrect or exaggerated.

Most vaults use a Seal-N-Safe Vault Door Model No. 343[4] to secure the airlock. Some older vaults (such as Vault 101) use a different, cruder blast door model. Vault 8, the control vault, had also a second, much larger, blast door built, securing the entry hallway leading to the entrance to the vault. The entrance level also houses the Emergency Medical Lab complete with an Auto-Doc. A vault medic was required to be present at the EML 24 hours a day. The lab had the equipment to treat nearly all injuries and illnesses, ranging from simple bruises to irradiation.

Standard pre-War design of the living quarters was that of a single room with a sanitary annex. Vault 13 had one hundred living quarters, and at maximum capacity, ten people would be assigned to a single living quarter, in a hot- bunking system. A standard level had 20,000 square feet of usable area. The lights in the vaults used Simu-Sun technology, making it feel just like the outdoors, with only a fraction of a sunburn risk. The lights in Vault 101 were kept on all the time to prevent a radroach infestation.

New Entertainertrons were used to play holotapes, and used as a slide projector in the classroom of Vault 101.

Heart of the vault, the command center was where the overseer's seat was located. The operations center, apart from the seat of power, included the computer lab, where the water purification system was located, and an armory, where the vault's weapons, ammunitions and armor were stockpiled. A security guard was posted in the command center at all times, to ensure that the armaments were properly secured and handed out only to people possessing the proper clearance from the overseer. Apart from that, the level also contained the computer core (with the vault's AI monitoring the shelter 24/7), housing data processing units, a library playing an important role in educating vault dwellers, a common meeting room, and the primary store room, where the most important supplies would be stored.

The overseer is also able to see anyone inside the vault with the Eye-on-You cameras.

Equipped with dual 5mm miniguns in some vaults, the overseer's command post can be considered the last line of defense in case vault security is breached.

In the Secret Vault, there are several command posts for the various sections. The command posts mainly contain buttons to control things like locking of doors and laser protection.

True Purpose

Officially, the vaults were nuclear shelters designed to protect the American population from nuclear holocaust. However, with a population of almost 400 million by 2077, the U.S. would need nearly 400,000 vaults the size of Vault 13, while Vault-Tec was commissioned to build only 122 such vaults. The government, and Vault-Tec, never really believed an actual nuclear war would occur; the real reason for the existence of these vaults was to run social experiments on pre-selected segments of the population to see how they react to the stresses of isolation and how successfully they recolonize Earth after the vault opens. The Enclave, responsible for the experiment (officially known as the "Societal Preservation Program"), considered themselves prime candidates for recolonizing the world after a nuclear holocaust and to this end commissioned the construction of their own shelters, isolated from the vault network. The purpose of the vault experiments was to help prepare the Enclave for either re-colonizing Earth or colonizing another planet if Earth turned out to be uninhabitable.

The total number of vaults is a government secret and has been lost; there were the aforementioned "public" vaults, which numbered 122 and an undisclosed number of "private" vaults. Information on whether Vault-Tec was an international corporation and were there vaults made by them in other parts of the world, or were they strictly U.S. based, cannot be released due to Vault-Tec and US Government regulations That said, Vault-Tec seem to have constructed some vaults in Canada. In a letter sent to a rejected D.C citizen the company offered to provide a list of "Vault-Tec facilities with available accommodations, in exciting locales such as Oklahoma and newly-annexed Canada."

Of the 122 known public vaults, only 17 were control, meaning that only 17 were made to public expectations. All others were designed to include a social experiment, sometimes with a select few of the inhabitants observing the occupants. The Secret Vault, the Vault-Tec private vault, was kept secret from the Enclave by Vault-Tec and so was not part of the experiment project.

The few vaults that survived intact for more than 80 years came to serve another, unanticipated purpose: they were an excellent source of pure human stock, uncontaminated by the mutated airborne strain of FEV and prime candidates for conversion into super mutants.


In terms of providing safety and security for their inhabitants, most of the vaults were complete failures. However, as noted in the Penny Arcade Comic, the vaults were never really intended to save anyone. There was simply not enough time, money or resources to build enough shelters to house more than a fraction of the population. While the "control vaults" did function as advertised and open on schedule, most were actually intended to explore and observe how societies adapt (or fail to adapt) to various challenges and restrictions. These social experiments were performed on live and mostly unaware subjects, monitored by Vault-Tec researchers in separate facilities, and undertaken at the behest of what would become the Enclave as part of a massive feasibility study of how to best re-colonize a barren Earth or, if necessary, other planets. Most of the vaults seen in the games were non-viable 200 or even a mere 80 years after the War. While Vault 13 might have lasted until its scheduled opening date of 2277, the unplanned failure of the Water Chip forced the Overseer's hand and set subsequent events in motion. If Vault 101 was truly intended to stay closed "forever", its failure was inevitable; the only question was how long, and what form the change or disaster would take. Many other vaults were abandoned because of unlivable conditions, or saw the residents driven violently insane by the procedures inflicted on them. Some of these continue to pose a hazard to the unwary who wander in from outside, looking for loot or a place of safety.

Despite all of this, the experiment may be considered a success in terms of the data collected - data that was much more important to the Vault-Tec and Enclave scientists than a few hundred thousand lives, most of whom would have died anyway if not for the vaults.

List of Vaults

Designation Description/Fate Location
LA Vault The Vault-Tec demonstration vault. It was not part of the experiment. Southern California, near Los Angeles
Vault 3 A control vault designed to open after 20 years, but kept closed longer due to the wishes of the vault inhabitants. However, an unplanned water leak forced the occupants to open in hopes of trading with the outside. Unfortunately, all of the vault's residents were massacred by a group of raiders known as the Fiends shortly after they opened the vault door. Mojave Wasteland
Vault 6 Was to test the ability of people to survive in constantly wet and cold weather. Most people died of hypothermia before the vault opened. Mount St. Helens, Washington
Vault 8 A control vault, intended to open and recolonize the surface after 10 years and is equipped with a GECK. Vault City is the result. Northern Nevada
(Vault City)
Vault 11 This vault was a social experiment testing human nature - most specifically the ability to sacrifice oneself for others, and the ability to place ideals above one's own life. Mojave Wasteland
Vault 12 In order to study the effects of radiation on the selected population, the vault door was designed not to close properly. This is the Necropolis vault and a large population of ghouls was the result. Bakersfield
Vault 13 Intended to stay closed for 200 years as a study of prolonged isolation, the broken water chip forced the Overseer to improvise and use the Vault Dweller as a pawn. Southern California
Vault 15 Intended to stay closed for 50 years and include people of radically diverse ideologies. Southern California
Vault 17 The vault was raided in 2154 and its inhabitants taken prisoner by the Master's Army. San Jose, Southern California
Vault 19 The vault was segregated into two groups, 'Red' and 'Blue'. The groups lived in separate sections of the vault and the inhabitants may have been chosen due to pre-existing paranoia. Mojave Wasteland
Vault 21 This vault's purpose was gambling, reinforced by having only compulsive gamblers admitted as vault residents, and with all conflicts within the vault to be resolved through gambling. It is one of the few non-control vaults that didn't end in failure. Las Vegas, Mojave Wasteland
Vault 22 Apparently a vault designed to develop advanced agricultural technologies. Successful experiments were executed, creating strains of plants that could grow under artificial light. However, an experiment on pest control involving a genetically-manufactured spore annihilated or transformed the vault's inhabitants. Mojave Wasteland
Vault 24 The vault was to contain only elderly people. Resulted in the vault dying out in only a few years after the Great War. Mojave Wasteland
Vault 27 This vault would be overcrowded deliberately. 2000 people would be assigned to enter, double the total sustainable amount. Tuscon, Arizona
(claimed by RoT)
Vault 29 No one in this vault was over the age of 15 when they entered. Parents were intentionally redirected to other vaults. Colorado
Vault 34 The armory was overstocked with weapons and ammunition and not provided with a lock. The Boomers, the weapon-crazy inhabitants of Nellis Air Force Base, descend from the inhabitants of this vault. Mojave Wasteland
Vault 36 The food extruders were designed to produce only a thin, watery gruel. Moab, Utah
Vault 39 The air conditioning system was to be at temperatures above 90 Degrees at all times. Resulted in thinner, smaller people exiting the vault. Abilene, Texas
Vault 40 The ventilation system was set to allow less and less oxygen into the Vault, to test how humans will evolve with less air to breath. However, in 2095, the Vault's Overseer had to assemble a task force to attempt to break the vault door open - which couldn't be opened by anyone but selected Vault-Tec employees. They succeeded, and the Vault's people could escape. San Antonio, Texas
Vault 42 No light bulbs of more than 40 watts were provided. Resulting in people with weaker eyes when the vault was forced open by Oiler diplomats. This vault became a district known as Dimlight. Its people remained in the vault to make sure their eyes were not injured, although the vault remains open to visitors. Houston, Texas
(Oil City)
Vault 43 Populated by twenty men, ten women, and one panther. Resulted in the panther's death, and the population remaining small until release. El Paso, Texas
Vault 53 Most of the equipment was designed to break down every few months. While repairable, the breakdowns were intended to stress the inhabitants unduly. Amarillo, Texas
Vault 55 All entertainment tapes were removed. Montgomery, Mississippi
Vault 56 All entertainment tapes were removed except those of one particularly bad comic actor. Sociologists predicted failure before Vault 55. Mobile, Alabama
(Oil City)
Vault 68 Of the one thousand people who entered, there was only one woman. Lafayette, Louisiana
(claimed by RoT and Oil City)
Vault 69 Of the one thousand people who entered, there was only one man. New Orleans, Louisiana
(claimed by RoT and Indiana)
Vault 70 All jumpsuit extruders fail after 6 months. Most of the inhabitants were Mormons. The city of New Canaan was founded by the vault dwellers after they left the vault. Salt Lake City, Utah
Vault 74 Was to contain half African Americans and the other half be white supremacist, Resulted in the populations killing each other off. Atalanta, Georgia
Vault 76 This vault was designed as a control group for the vault experiment. Like Vault 8, it was intended to open and re-colonize the surface after 20 years. Baltimore, Maryland
Vault 77 Populated by one man and a crate full of puppets. North Carolina
Vault 87 A Forced Evolutionary Virus research facility Capital Wasteland
Vault 92 Populated largely by renowned musicians, this vault was a test bed for a white noise-based system for implanting combat-oriented posthypnotic suggestions. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Vault 100 Was to contain a large amount of historians with no knowledge of basic survival skills. Princeton, New Jersey
Vault 101 Evaluation of performance of an omnipotent overseer in a closed community Capital Wasteland
Vault 106 Psychoactive drugs were released into the air filtration system 10 days after the door was sealed. Augusta, Maine
Vault 108 The vault houses a cloning lab and all surviving residents are clones of one man called Gary. Capital Wasteland
Vault 112 Home of the Tranquility Lane virtual reality simulator. Capital Wasteland
Vault 117 A vault to be totally inhabited by cultists. Burkittsville, Maryland
Canceled Vault 13 A fenced construction area in a small cave north of Vaults 13 and 15. It may have been the first location of Vault 13 before its relocation. Northern California
Vault 0 A special vault designed maintain the geniuses of the pre-War United States in cryogenic stasis and improve the future Wasteland conditions with a robot army. Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado
Secret Vault A secret vault dedicated to protect high-members of Vault-Tec and used to research the latest technologies (like electrical laser weapons and instant regeneration) and the Forced Evolutionary Virus. Los Ybanez, Texas
Vault Prototype A small Vault-Tec facility used as the base of operations by the Brotherhood of Steel in Texas. Texarkana, Texas

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.