Civil defence

Civil defence refers to all measures taken under emergency conditions to protect people, property and the environment as well as urgent steps taken to minimise damage and repercussions in case of accidents or imminent threat of accidents. Under normal conditions, civil defence refers to preparedness for the above-mentioned tasks.

Civil defence districts in Helsinki

Helsinki is divided into 4 civil defence districts, 8 civil defence zones.

The personnel assigned to civil defence districts, zones and sub-zones are mostly employees of the city. They have been trained for their duties under normal conditions.

In emergency situations, Helsinki’s rescue operations and civil defence are directed from the Rescue Command Centre. The command centre’s duties include alerting the public, protecting people and managing evacuation in the city area.

Civil defence shelters

In case of danger or an emergency, the authorities warn residents with the general alarm signal and official releases. The first and usually an adequate measure to protect oneself is to go indoors and to follow the instructions.

Civil defence shelters may be necessary in some emergencies. These shelters are used if so decided by the authorities.

Modern shelters, when appropriately prepared for use, provide protection from radiation, poisonous substances, collapses and weapons.

The Rescue Act and Statute define the responsibilities for building civil defence shelters, their structure, maintenance and use.

Civil defence shelters in buildings

The majority of civil defence shelters are located in residential and public buildings. They are traditional shelters usually built in the basement. The protective door of the shelter is marked with the international symbol of civil defence, which is a blue triangle on a yellow background.

The property owner or manager is responsible for maintaining the civil defence shelter located in the building in good condition and working order. The housing company’s board of directors or the property owner names a manager for the shelter maintenance and civil defence. The Rescue Department organizes training for those in charge of civil defence.

If the shelter is normally used for some purpose other than civil defence, it must convertible for use as a shelter within 72 hours. All related equipment and devices must also be available for use within this time frame.

Bedrock shelters

In addition to building- and institution-specific shelters, there are also large civil defence shelters built into bedrock. Under normal conditions, bedrock shelters are used, for example, for sports and recreation and as parking facilities. Additionally, the metro stations in the city centre have been equipped to act as civil defence shelters.

These shelters are either public or shared. Public shelters can be used by anyone, and they are intended for people who are outdoors during the emergency and for people who have no shelter in their home building or their workplace. Shared shelters are bedrock shelters that are reserved for the members of housing companies or the employees of corporations and other institutions.

Shelters that are normally utilized in the above-mentioned ways are maintained by the City or a regional maintenance authority.

Find bedrock shelters on the Service Map.

Civil defence management, international agreements and legislation

The Ministry of the Interior steers civil defence planning with legislation, regulations and emergency preparedness drills organised with the local authorities subordinate to the ministry.

International agreements regarding civil defence have been established in the Geneva Conventions and their supplementary protocols. On the national level, civil defence is regulated by the Rescue Act and related statutes. Civil defence is further governed by the Emergency Powers Act and the State of Defence Act.

The international symbol for civil defence is a blue triangle on an orange background.

More information: Helsinki Rescue Department: Civil defence