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Information on civil defence shelters

Many are worried about the situation in Ukraine, and the rescue services have received a lot of inquiries regarding civil defence shelters. The rescue services emphasize that there is currently no threat to Finland that would require the issuing of an official order to deploy civil defence shelters or use iodine tablets.

Rescue Services of Central Ostrobothnia and Pietarsaari region have compiled an information package with frequently asked questions about civil defence shelters.

What is a civil defence shelter and where are they found

  • Civil defence shelters provide protection for the population particularly against a military threat in areas where people normally move, live and go to work.
  • There are no public civil defence shelters in Central Ostrobotnia or Ostrobotnia. Civil defence shelters are usually found in connection with larger residential buildings or workplaces and can, if necessary, be used by the residents or employees of these properties. You can find information about civil defence shelters from the property’s rescue plan, the housing company board or the building manager.
  • Civil defence shelters can also be found in connection to public buildings, such as schools and day-care centers, where they are intended for the needs of the property users. Civil defence shelters are usually located in basements or on ground levels, or they are a part of separate buildings, e.g. in connection with external warehouses.
  • The civil defence shelters are marked with the international symbol of civil defence, it is a blue triangle on an orange background.
  • Smaller residential buildings and single-family houses don’t usually have a civil defence shelter. This means that the residents themselves are responsible for their protection and they shelter themselves in temporary shelters, i.e. inside their homes.
  • Due to the limited number of places in each building-specific shelter, e.g. in connection to residential buildings, schools and workplaces, in a state of emergency the supplementary authority would allow them authorities, e.g. take over buildings and allocate the civil defence shelters in these buildings to people in the neighboring areas, who don’t have shelters in their own houses. It is possible that other than actual civil defence shelters are used as shelters against effects of conventional weapons. In principle, people are allocated a civil defence shelter within a few hundred meters radius. An alternative is that people, who don’t have a shelter, are evacuated from an area of risk when protection is needed. The order to evacuate an area is given by the authorities.
  • Civil defence shelters are reinforced concrete shelters or rock shelters. They provide protection against explosions and shrapnel, collapsed buildings, shock waves, radiation and hazardous substances. The call to seek shelter and deploy civil defence shelters is made by the authorities. Deploying a civil defence shelter must be possible within 72 hours.
  • Maintaining the civil defence shelter is the building owner’s and holder’s responsibility.

When to shelter in a civil defence shelter?

  • People are urged to seek shelter in civil defence shelters only when an official order is given by authorities and the shelters have been deployed. Before a civil defence shelter is deployed, it only protects to the extent of its structures. The ventilation and sealings, for example, are not automatically in use.
  • Deploying is announced as an official order, after which the deploying of a civil defence shelter must done within 72 hours. The deployment of the shelter is carried out by a civil defence shelter manager.
  • If it became necessary to seek shelter, the authorities would provide separate instructions on measures required for buildings and properties that do not have their own civil defence shelters. The measures may include seeking shelter indoors or building temporary shelters.

Civil defence shelter manager

  • The civil defence shelter shall have a designated and trained shelter manager, who is responsible for the maintenance and deploying of the civil defence shelter. The civil defence shelter manager can be, for example a maintenance person, but it’s recommended that the shelter manager is someone who lives or resides in the building.
  • In a situation when sheltering is needed, the civil defence shelter manager operates from within the shelter.

Sheltering indoors

  • Sheltering indoors is a protective action in dangerous situations and has, as such, nothing to do with exceptional circumstances or the threat of war.
  • People are advised to take shelter indoors for example in chemical accidents or due to a nearby fire. In such situations, shut all doors, windows and airways and seal all gaps with plastic wrap or duct tape, for example. If the building has mechanical ventilation, there is often a yellow emergency ventilation shutdown button near the entrance.
  • The authorities warn the public in situations that require sheltering indoors with a general warning signal and/or an emergency warning via the television or the 112-app.

Is the civil defence shelter in order?

  • The owner of the civil defence shelter shall ensure that the machines and devices in the civil defence shelter are in working order and that the equipment is being maintained on a regular basis in accordance with the instructions given by the manufacturer. In addition, a leak test should be carried out every 10 years to test how the shelter functions in action. If it’s unclear when shelter maintenance tasks and inspections have been carried out, these should be carried out to ensure the devices and equipment are in working order.
  • Maintenance and inspections can be carried out by a qualified building manager or shelter manager. Companies that perform shelter maintenance and inspections can be found with the search words: ”väestönsuojan tiiveyskoe”. Defects or deficiencies discovered during maintenance and inspections shall be rectified.

What can I take with me to the civil defence shelter? What can’t I take with me?


Food to last you for 2-3 days, water, personal medication and hygienic supplies, bedding (e.g. sleeping bag and camping mattress), torch and batteries, iodine tablets and something to spend your time with (books, games, paper, pens), and earplugs, if needed.


Pets, alcohol, drugs, guns, device that produce heat (gas-cookers, storm lanterns etc.) or anything that smells bad. It is not allowed to smoke in the shelter.

Home emergency supply kit

  • Regardless of civil defence shelter matters, maintaining a sufficient home emergency supply kit is one of the most important precautionary measure a resident can take.
  • The home emergency food supply provide security in smaller disruptions, for example in the event of a power outage or illness.
  • You should reserve a sufficient amount of food, drink, containers with lids for storing water, medicines, cash and other supplies needed in daily life to last you for at least three days.
  • You should also prepare for, for example, long blackouts, disruptions in water supply or disruptions in payment transactions.
  • The home emergency supply kit is also used when moving to the civil defence shelter, since residents must bring their own food and personal supplies, among other things.