Sheltering indoors and civil defence shelters

The general alarm signal is used to warn the public of a hazardous situation. Sheltering indoors and following instructions in a hazardous situation are the most important way of protecting yourself, and usually they are enough.

Everyone should recognise the general alarm signal and know what to do when they hear it. If you hear the alarm signal, the first thing to do is to go indoors. You should only go to a civil defence shelter if the authorities tell you to do so.

To help yourself and others, you need to know about hazards and avoiding dangerous situations. You should also know what to do in case of an accident.

The alarm signal is a continuous rising and falling sound

The alarm signal tells those who are outdoors to go inside. After the alarm signal has been given, the reason for the alarm and instructions for protecting yourself are read on the radio. An alarm signal is sounded if there is a gas leak or radiation hazard. It is also given in case of a fire that produces a lot of smoke.

Leaks of such gases as chlorine, ammonia or sulphur dioxide may cause a dangerous situation. Many plants and factories use or manufacture large quantities of these gases. Gases are transported and stored near towns and cities. If there is an accident, the wind may spread the gas, and its impacts may extend across several kilometres.

The likelihood of a serious radiation hazard in Finland is very low. A nuclear explosion or a serious nuclear power plant accident in Finland or the neighbouring regions could cause a radiation hazard which affects a large area. A local radiation hazard could be caused by an accident in the transport of radioactive materials, for example. Sheltering inside and taking iodine tablets are sufficient measures even in the worst nuclear power plant accidents if you are further away than 20 to 30 km from the plant. You usually only need to shelter indoors for a maximum of 24 hours.

Civil defence shelters are there to keep citizens safe

Most blocks of flats built after the late 1950s have civil defence shelters. A civil defence shelter is provided in all new buildings of at least 1,200 square metres in floor area. In industrial buildings and those used for manufacturing, storage and meetings, however, the floor area limit for building a civil defence shelter is 1,500 square metres. The owner of the building is responsible for building a civil defence shelter.

The civil defence shelter protects people from radiation, gases, landslides and conventional weapons. The door is marked with a civil defence shelter logo. The equipment in the civil defence shelter need to be maintained regularly, in the same way as other equipment in the building.

Civil defence shelters are mainly built to prepare for a war. This is why you do not need to keep them continuously ready for use. The civil defence shelter can be used as a meeting place, swimming pool, carpark, metro tunnel or hobby room. The condition is that the shelter can be emptied and made ready for use in 72 hours.

The civil defence plans prepared by the authorities and the construction of civil defence shelters make it possible to protect the population in emergencies. Citizens self-preparedness is maintained and developed to ensure that they know what to do in an emergency. In addition, communities and companies support the civil defence system.

Read more:

Listen to the alarm signal
Accident situation
Civil defence