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Civil defence

The Finnish information society is very vulnerable and fragile to disruptions. Due to the vulnerability of our society, we must all prepare for many various serious disruptions and even emergency conditions, which can, in extreme cases, occur as an armed conflict. Preparing for problems caused by disruptions is done in advance, so that during the crisis we can act as efficiently as possible in order to protect people, property and operations from all the dangers threatening them.

Civil defence and civil defence shelters in Helsinki  Frequently asked questions

What is civil defence?

Civil defence is humanitarian actions that aim at protecting civilian population from armed conflict and against threats of accidents, helping the population to survive direct effects of armed conflict and accidents and enabling the civilian population to survive in times of emergency.

The Finnish authorities are widely prepared for defending and protecting the population, the developing situation is constantly followed. The authorities also practice civil defence on a yearly base. Finland is well prepared.

What is a civil defence shelter?

A modern civil defence shelter in working condition offers shelter from military threats, collapsed buildings, ionising radiation and toxic substances.  Civil defence shelters provide protection for the population particularly against a military threat.

Building-specific civil defence shelters are a key part of the civil defence operations. In addition to building, company and institution specific shelters, large shelters are also built into the bedrock. In Helsinki, the bedrock shelters are either public or shared civil defence shelters. The public civil defence shelters are built by the city, and they are intended for people who live in the city or work or stay there and for people outdoors, who cannot otherwise be provided with sufficient shelter.

In Helsinki, several areas utilise shared bedrock shelters instead of building-specific civil defence shelters. These civil defence shelters are mainly intended for the buildings that funded the shared shelter’s founding phase.

Under normal conditions, bedrock shelters are in use, for example, as sports and recreation premises and as parking facilities. Additionally, the metro stations in the city centre have been equipped to act as civil defence shelters.

When are civil defence shelters taken into protective use?

If the situation would require utilising the civil defence shelters into protective use, an order by the authorities is given. In that case the shelters must be available for civil defence purposes in 72 hours from the giving of the order. Under normal conditions the civil defence shelters are used for example as storages, recreational or social facilities as stated in the building’s building permit.

What should I take with me to the civil defence shelter?

If you must go to a civil defence shelter for protective reason, you should have your proof of identity, food, drink, personal medication, and hygienic supplies for 2-3 days. Also bedding (for example sleeping bag and outdoor mattress), torch and batteries, iodine tablets and something to spend your time with (books, games, pens, and paper). Also, earplugs, if needed.

You are not allowed to bring alcohol, drugs, weapons, device that produce heat (gas-cookers, storm lanterns etc.) or anything that smells bad. Smoking in the shelter is prohibited.

Why are iodine tablets on the list?

For example, in a serious nuclear power plant accident, radioactive iodine may be released into the air. The accumulation of this radioactive iodine in the thyroid gland is reduced by taking an iodine tablet. Proper timing is important when taking iodine tablets and iodine tablets should only be taken at the request of an authority. Authority instructions are available on the radio and television. Follow the instructions on the package for dosing. Iodine tablets can each one of us purchase from pharmacies.                                             

How do I know if I have a civil defence shelter?

Civil defence shelters are marked with the international symbol for civil protection, which is a blue triangle on an orange background. In addition, arrow signs are used, if necessary, to guide the users of the building to the civil defence shelter. Signs may be in the shelter when not in use and should put in place after the authorities’ request.

The building’s rescue plan tells where the building’s civil defence shelter is or which is the shared shelter you can use. Usually there are no civil defence shelters in detached house areas or the countryside.

How many civil defence shelters do we have in Helsinki?

We have a sufficient number of civil defence shelters in Helsinki. There are approximately 5 500 civil defence shelters with approximately 900 000 places.

In Helsinki the biggest public bedrock civil defence shelters are in Kamppi, Eastern Pasila, Northern Kontula and Kallio. They all have a little less than or over 10 000 places.

Where do I find information on the civil defence shelters in Helsinki?

Information on civil defence shelters can be found on:

The building’s rescue plan tells where the building’s civil defence shelter is or which is the shared shelter you can use. Usually there are no civil defence shelters in detached house areas or the countryside.

If you need to find out where your civil defence shelter is, you can find it in the building permission documents. These documents you can get by contacting your housing company, property manager or building control authority.

How do I protect myself if I don’t have a civil defence shelter?

The authorities will instruct those who have not been allocated in advance a place in civil defence shelter if the situation so requires. In an emergency, you can go to the nearest shelter. In order to protect the population, the authorities can also evacuate the population. Evacuations will only be carried out if the population cannot be protected in any other way.

When are civil defence shelters taken into protective use?

Under normal conditions the civil defence shelters are used for example as storages, recreational or social facilities as stated in the building’s building permit.

If the situation would require utilising the civil defence shelters into protective use, an order by the authorities is given. In that case the shelters must be available for civil defence purposes in 72 hours from the giving of the order. When the authorities give an order that the civil defence shelters are taken into use, the occupants of other users of the building empty the shelter and prepare it for usage in the guidance of the caretaker who is chosen in advance.

How do I find out that I have to go to a civil defence shelter?

The authorities follow the situation and its development constantly and will raise the level of

preparedness if needed. They also give guidance to citizens on individual preparedness (For more information: https://72hours.fi/) and of possible need for taking civil defence actions. This information will be given in many ways and using several channels.

In hazardous situations and emergencies, the authorities warn the public of a direct and imminent danger to the population with a general alarm signal and an emergency warning. The general alarm signal is a regularly rising and falling sound (7 seconds each) lasting for one minute, or a warning issued using loudspeakers. The emergency warning is broadcast on all radio channels and, if necessary, posted on YLE’s, MTV3’s and Nelonen’s teletext page 112 as well as shown in television programmes as running text on top of the screen. The purpose of the emergency warning is to warn the public about a hazardous incident and to give them instructions.

The emergency response centre agency also uses the 112 mobile app 

More information about alarm signals on rescue service's webpages 

More information about what to do in case of civil defence emergency on rescue department's webpages

What should I take with me to the civil defence shelter?

If you must go to a civil defence shelter for protective reason, you should have your proof of identity, food, drink, personal medication, and hygienic supplies for 2-3 days. Also bedding (for example sleeping bag and outdoor mattress), torch and batteries, iodine tablets and something to spend your time with (books, games, pens, and paper). Also, earplugs, if needed.

You are not allowed to bring alcohol, drugs, weapons, device that produce heat (gas-cookers, storm lanterns etc.) or anything that smells bad. Smoking in the shelter is prohibited.

Why are iodine tablets on the list?

For example, in a serious nuclear power plant accident, radioactive iodine may be released into the air. The accumulation of this radioactive iodine in the thyroid gland is reduced by taking an iodine tablet. Proper timing is important when taking iodine tablets and iodine tablets should only be taken at the request of an authority. Authority instructions are available on the radio and television. Follow the instructions on the package for dosing. Iodine tablets can each one of us purchase from pharmacies.                                    

Do mobile phones work in civil defence shelters?

Mobile phone coverage must be arranged in the civil defence shelters.

How long will we stay in the civil defence shelter?

A civil defence shelter is built so that you can stay inside it for several days. According to the law the equipment is such that for example ventilation and air intake are secured even if there is toxic gas or radioactive substances outside.

The time we might spend in the shelter depends on the emergency. Nowadays the estimated maximum time is 3 executive days. In war-like situations it is more likely that the civil defence shelters would be use for shorter periods, for example during night time. Even then the authorities give instructions for it.

What do I do with my pets if I have to go to a civil defence shelter?

You are not allowed to take animals into civil defence shelters. If people are advised to take shelter, you can make one inside your apartment.

How is the condition of civil defence shelters taken care of?

The maintenance of civil defence shelters is to be taken care of yearly.

The periodic inspection of the equipment in the civil defence shelter is to be done at least with a 10-year-cycle. An inspection report for each piece of equipment is to be made during the inspection. Upon request the report is shown to the rescue authorities.

The equipment and fittings for the civil defence shelter must be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. It is recommended to test the ventilation equipment, to open and close the overpressure and dam valves and to check the condition of the seals and to check the civil defence shelter’s material annually.

In what kind of condition are the civil defence shelters in Helsinki?

All civil defence shelters that Helsinki City is responsible for protect against the effects of bombings and splinters. The civil defence shelters owned by the City of Helsinki are in other use in peace time, but they can be utilised in 72 hours so that they protect against bombing. Some of the shelters have repair debts, especially for backup power and ventilation systems. Shelters are systematically renovated and improved.

Main part of the civil defence shelters in Helsinki are managed by housing companies that are also responsible for their condition.

Who should I contact if I want to help in civil defence action?

Volunteers are needed and they are warmly welcomed to assist authorities. Civil defence training is organised in Finnish by: