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Finnish authorities are prepared to protect the population 

Civil defence covers a wide area that includes measures through which different authorities prepare to act in emergency conditions through advance planning and civil defence training. 

All authorities have tasks related to the planning of civil defence and preparedness. Authorities train and allocate personnel for duties in emergencies and ensure that command, control and alarm systems are built and maintained. Preparations are made to protect the population from the effects of weapons, for example, by means of civil defence shelters and evacuations. Evacuation means transferring the population to a safer area during a war or other conflict. 

The international symbol for civil defence is an equilateral blue triangle on an orange background. Civil defence shelters are marked with this symbol.

Väestönsuojelutunnus, sininen kolmio oranssilla pohjalla

Civil defence shelters have been built in areas with the highest number of people to be protected

In early 2022, Finland had about  50 500 civil defence shelters with space for a total of  4,8 million people. Civil defence shelters provide protection against, for example explosions and shrapnel, collapsing buildings, blast waves as well as radiation and hazardous substances. 

Civil defence shelters can be found in areas with a large number of people and large buildings, mainly in cities and population centres. Most of the civil defence shelters are property-specific civil defence shelters. They are built in connection with the construction of buildings exceeding a certain size. However, your building may not have its own civil defence shelter. There may be shared shelters for several buildings.

Public civil defence shelters have been built in large cities to complement the need for civil defence shelters and to protect people on the move. There are usually no civil defence shelters in sparsely populated areas, rural areas and residential areas with single-family homes, and residents of such areas do not have a designated shelter. In these areas, the authorities see to the measures required to protect the population in emergency conditions, for example, by evacuating the population or designating a shelter in the vicinity of the area.

Information on your building-specific civil defence shelter or the nearest shared civil defence shelter can often be found in your housing company’s emergency plan. Rescue departments provide advice on individual emergency planning and the drawing up of a rescue plan.

Building owners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of civil defence shelters

Civil defence shelters must be kept in such a condition that they can be made ready for use within 72 hours. In normal conditions, civil defence shelters are usually used as recreational facilities or storage spaces, for example. This is useful, because when premises are in use, it is easier to notice maintenance needs. Shelters must be used in normal conditions in such a way that they remain in working order.

It is important for every property to have a person with experience of how to prepare a civil defence shelter for use and  for every property to have a plan for doing so, for example, as part of the property’s emergency plan. Regional rescue service organisations provide training related to civil defence shelters.

The property owner is responsible for the maintenance of the civil defence shelter. The equipment in the civil defence shelter must be inspected and serviced at least every 10 years. An inspection record must be kept of the inspection and service measures, and the record must be presented to the rescue authorities upon request. In connection with other supervision measures, such as fire inspections, rescue authorities check that civil defence shelters have been appropriately inspected and serviced.

The construction of civil defence shelters in Finland is allocated to the largest buildings based on a risk assessment. Under the Rescue Act, a civil defence shelter must be built when the floor area of the building exceeds 1,200 square metres and the building is used as a permanent dwelling or workplace or is otherwise permanently occupied. In industrial buildings and those used for manufacturing, storage and meetings, the floor area limit is 1,500 square metres. 

In addition, the owners or occupiers of buildings, agencies, institutions, companies and organisations have an obligation to prepare for incidents and emergency conditions through independent preparedness measures. A rescue plan must be drawn up for the sites specified in the Rescue Act and Decree. The rescue plan must take into account the prevention of hazardous situations and provide clear operating instructions.

Be prepared and stay safe!

What should I do if I have to find shelter?

As a first choice, shelter indoors and only go to a civil defence shelter if the authorities tell you to do so. 

Follow different forms of media and keep the radio on at all times. Always check the origin of news and press releases, especially when using social media channels. Reliable information is available on official and mainstream media publications. 

What to bring with you to the shelter?

  • food and drinking water for two to three days (72 hours)
  • plates, cutlery and a tin opener
  • warm and comfortable clothing, a camping mattress, a blanket or sleeping bag and a pillow
  • personal hygiene supplies
  • a torch, batteries, paper towels and plastic bags
  • pastimes: books, magazines, games and toys
  • Don't forget your medications!