Poland only has bomb shelters for 3% of population, but authorities seek to reassure public

Poland has 62,000 sites that can be considered shelters for civilians in the event of war or other emergencies, the interior ministry has revealed. The sites can accommodate around 1.3 million people, roughly 3% of the population.

While the situation varies across the country, one of Poland’s 16 provinces, Wielkopolska in the west, has not a single such shelter.

However, the authorities have struck a reassuring note, noting that many underground structures, such as car parks and basements, have been built in such a way that they can be considered fit to serve as shelters if required.

The latest information on the state of civil defence in Poland was presented yesterday to a parliamentary subcommittee on crisis management. It comes as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine – as well as recent tensions around the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad that borders Poland – have raised concerns among Polish citizens.

Earlier this week, it was reported that residents of the Suwałki Gap – an area along the Polish-Lithuanian border lying between Kaliningrad and Belarus – had appealed for the Polish authorities to create emergency shelters in case the Kremlin decides to launch military action.

On Thursday, deputy interior minister Maciej Wąsik and fire service head Andrzej Bartkowiak, who is also the chief of national civil defence, answered MPs’ questions on Poland’s preparedness to defend civilians in the event of war amid ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Residents of Poland’s Suwałki Gap appeal for emergency shelters in case of war with Russia

“We have very good building regulations in terms of fire safety, one of the strictest in the world,” said Bartkowiak. “All underground garages or cellars in reinforced concrete structures, which is what we have mainly been building for 50 years, are so good that they can safely be considered as shelters, although they are not real shelters”.

There is no definition of a shelter in Polish construction law and there are no clear guidelines on the matter, but the interior ministry said it plans to formulate a proper shelter definition and include it in a planned new Civil Protection Act.

The ministry has also announced that, in cooperation with local authorities, it will make an inventory of places that could serve as shelters in case of emergencies. The survey will also cover Cold-War-era shelters that used to be set up, for instance, by schools and hospitals.

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Main photo credit: magro_kr / Flickr.com under 2.0 Generic licence (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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