Ukraine’s air defence system is successfully repelling enemy attacks, but no one is safe from the debris of downed enemy missiles or drones. It is up to each of us to know where to hide and how to take care of our safety and the safety of our families. What to do if the shelling has started and you are still at home: go to a shelter or look for a safe hiding place? What should you do if your house was hit and the walls were destroyed? Oleh Stovolos, Head of the Civil Protection Department of the Main Directorate of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Kyiv, explains for the project.

  • How to properly equip a shelter?

    There are requirements for a shelter under state building codes. The simplest shelter is a ground floor or basement. It should have places to sit, containers with drinking water, and containers for storing food. Perhaps a bio-toilet. They must also be equipped with primary fire extinguishing equipment, first aid equipment, communication and notification equipment, and a rescue tool.

  • What additional options can people equip in the shelter?

    These premises should be airtight. If we are talking about the fund of shelters for the population, it is necessary that they are airtight and have the things I have listed. This can be done by the balance holder. If we are talking about communal housing, it should probably be done by the housing office. Residents can also equip what else they want to have there.

  • The risk of being trapped under rubble. Is it safer to follow the two-wall rule than to stay in a shelter?

    In any case, when an air raid warning is announced, everyone should go to a shelter. A shelter is the safest place to protect your life. The rule of two walls can be used if the shelling caught a person out of the blue. For example, when there was no air raid alert or the person didn’t hear it. Only in such cases can you use the two-wall rule in your home. But once again, I emphasise that in case of any air raid, people should go to a designated shelter.

  • What to do if the shelter is far away and the shelling has already started?

    If a person stays in the house and the shelling has started, if he or she didn’t head for the shelter, then we use the two-wall rule in our apartment. These can be two load-bearing walls, or a doorway. There should be no glass in these places, so that the glass broken by the shock wave doesn’t hurt. It would be good to have a mobile phone with you. In case the building collapses, this way a person can try to notify that he or she is still under the rubble.

  • There is no shelter nearby. Is it possible to set up a shelter at home and how?

    According to the regulations and what we have seen, it is impossible to set up a shelter in an apartment. Unless you have an emergency suitcase with you, which you should take with you and go to a shelter during an alarm.

    The only safe place to hide is the space underground.

  • Is it safe to be in the bathroom during an alert?

    If you don’t have time to go to a shelter, use the two-wall rule. Not all residential buildings have safe bathrooms: in block-type buildings, particularly in older buildings, they can’t be considered safe. These are 4 blocks that are inserted inside the building and if the building collapses, these blocks can fold. And between the load-bearing walls, even if the wall slab falls, there will be a small amount of space in this gap where you can stay and not be covered with building materials. 

    The bathroom is safe if there are certain structural elements, if the building is not a block type.

    Window openings are dangerous because they fly out into the apartment during a shock wave.

  • If the shelters are basements with hot water pipes, is it safe to stay there?

    If we are talking about basements and ground floors, the requirements state that communication pipes of a residential building should not pass through these premises. This is because in case of a building collapse or other emergency, people who will be in this space will be flooded with hot or cold water when the pipe breaks. Therefore, the regulations prohibit communications from passing through the premises of the simplest shelters.

  • You live in a region where your house may be damaged by missiles. How can you move around safely to avoid being trapped in the rubble?

    In an apartment building, it is better to take the stairs because the lift may be blocked due to a power outage.

    And it will not be safe. Therefore, if you live in such regions, you should only go down the stairs.

  • You are trapped under rubble in a bomb shelter. What is the algorithm of actions?

    First, you need to try to somehow inform people that you are under the rubble. It can be a mobile phone: call 101 or 102 and report that you are there. If you don’t have a mobile phone, it can be a rescue tool if you can move your hands freely. Then find some kind of building structure, perhaps a pipe or panel, to let people know you are under the rubble. When rescuers are working, they stop every hour. They announce 10 minutes of silence and listen to see if there are any people who can give a signal about themselves. Then the rescuers know where to search.

  • If you can’t be heard and there are no rescuers, what to do?

    Perhaps you can move around on your own, and you have tools at hand, and you know the layout of the building, where there is a possible exit. Then you can try to free yourself from the rubble.

  • The apartment is collapsed, the walls are smashed, you can’t get out. Is it worth trying?

    If it’s an apartment, it’s better to wait for the rescuers to come and do the job and get you out. Because you can hurt yourself even more on your own. 

    You should only try to get out on your own if you are sure it is safe to do so.

    During any rescue operation, a headquarters is set up to help professionals find all the people as quickly as possible. We talk to those in the building who may know who is left, make lists, try to contact them by mobile phone, and at the beginning of the rescue operation we have an approximate idea of how many people are left under the rubble.

  • Is it possible that rescuers will not come? For example, if a person lives in a remote house or a remote village.

    In my practice, there has never been a case when rescuers didn’t come to a house. In Kyiv, we had massive shelling, and there were many locations at the same time – rescuers always went to all calls as quickly as possible.

  • If you see a person under the rubble, should you rescue them yourself?

    No. In any case, you need to inform the rescuers and wait for them and the medical service. Because you don’t know what kind of injuries they have and whether your actions will not cause them even more harm.