What is shelter?

The simplest shelters are basements and semi-basements, underground parking lots, and underpasses. They can hide during short shelling. The safest of them are those with several exits (one of them outside the house).

Such premises are usually used as shops, gyms, warehouses, etc. Owners need to be aware of emergency appointments and be prepared to give people access if necessary. We recommend that you arrange contact with the owners in advance (get phone numbers). Residents of cities with subways can also hide on station platforms or underpasses.

Please note that the subway will primarily operate as public transport to get people to a safe place in the event of an emergency. Therefore, if you go to the station, do not expect to stay there: you may be transported to another place.

The shelter is a sealed structure for an extended stay of people in case of emergency.

To find such premises look for “Shelter” or “Civil Protection Object” signs. There must also be a telephone number of the person who will open the shelter door in case of danger. If not, contact your local authority for information.

To prepare, we recommend:

Check the addresses of the nearest shelters by phone or on the official website of the local executive body;

Write 2-3 addresses of the shelters closest to you in case the first shelter you come to is full;

Study and pass the route to these buildings in advance;

Personally check their readiness and inform the local authorities if the shelter needs repairs.

To prepare, we recommend that you

  • clarify the addresses of the nearest shelters by phone or on the official website of the local authority
  • write down 2-3 addresses of the nearest shelters in case the first shelter you come to is full
  • study beforehand and walk the route to these buildings
  • personally check their readiness and inform the local authorities if the shelter needs repairs

All citizens of Ukraine have the right to civil protection. Everyone can go to a shelter in any city or building. If a shelter is on the map of shelters, anyone has the right to take cover there.

A siren sounds but the shelter is closed. How to stay safe?

  • Quickly try to contact the owner of the shelter and ask them to open the door.
  • Quickly figure out where else there is a place to hide nearby. It can be the subway, ground floors and basements of buildings, underground parkings, or underpasses.
  • If you are outside and have nowhere to hide and you hear explosions, immediately lie down on the ground and cover your head with your hands. Any ledge, even a sidewalk, a ditch, a concrete trash can, or steps can be a protection.

If you find a locked shelter during an alert

  • Record it on a photo or video.
  • Call the police (number 102) or rescuers (number 101).
  • When the threat has passed, contact the district state administration.
  • The administration is obliged to record your appeal and contact the owner of the shelter. Shelter must be properly maintained and opened during each air alert.

The subway as a shelter

In wartime, underground metro stations of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, as well as underground high-speed tram stations in Kryvyi Rih serve as shelters. You can get into the underground shelter 24 hours a day. In particular, during the curfew.

In Kyiv, during an air raid siren, entry is free — only through manually controlled turnstiles. To enter the lobby during curfew hours, call the police officer on duty. To do this, call the number located at the entrance to the subway or press the bell in the lobby near the subway entrance. The law enforcement officers will organize a passage to the shelter.

In Kharkiv, Dnipro and Kryvyi Rih, the stations are open 24 hours a day. In Dnipro metro, rooms for service personnel are being opened for mothers with children. It’s warmer there than on the station platforms, and there are showers. To get there, ask a subway employee.

Important! Documents can be checked in shelters at metro stations, so it is essential to have your ID with you.

Do not leave the vault until the air raid siren is stopped.

Слідкуйте за офіційними повідомленнями і не залишайте укриття до того, поки не з’явиться офіційна інформація про відбій повітряної тривоги.

Довіряйте тільки офіційним, перевіреним джерелам інформації. Детальніше у довідці про зв’язок та пошук інформації.

Alert during classes and school shelters: commonly asked questions

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine calls the school system the most prepared for the challenges of war. The vast majority of general secondary education institutions already have shelters, shelters are being built, and the educational process has been adapted so that children from all regions can receive education no matter what. However, parents still have many questions and concerns, particularly about the safety of their children. This guide provides answers to the most common questions about the organisation of education during the war.

What is the situation with shelters in Ukrainian schools?

In the 2022/2023 school year, 80% of Ukrainian schools were equipped with shelters. This school year, 87% of schools have shelters, which is 11.8 thousand out of 13.6 thousand schools.

The process of arranging shelters is constant. Over the summer of 2023, more than 1,000 schools have been equipped with shelters, allowing them to resume full-time education. By the end of 2023, about 200 more will join them.

​​However, more than 900,000 students are currently studying remotely. This is primarily due to the situation in a particular region rather than the lack or availability of shelters. If it is close to a combat zone or the border with Russia, the alarm starts sounding there after the first explosion. Thus, the safety of children and school staff in such areas can’t be ensured.

Who determines whether a school shelter is suitable for students and by what criteria?

Before the start of the school year, the shelter must be inspected by a special commission. The commission necessarily involves representatives of the State Emergency Service, police, the State Food and Consumer Service, and local authorities.

Mandatory requirements for the simplest school shelters

It is located in the basement (underground), on the ground floor, in the main building of the school or no further than 100 metres from it. There should be no tanks with hazardous chemicals, flammable and explosive substances, water and sewerage lines nearby

The shelter must be equipped with electricity, artificial lighting, water supply and toilet facilities. In the absence of the latter, there should be room for the installation of portable tanks.

There should be no holes in the walls except for doors. If there are others, they should be sealed with sandbags or soil, concrete blocks or bricks.

The shelter should have at least two emergency exits. For shelters with a capacity of up to 50 people, one exit is allowed.

No water, sewerage or other lines should pass through the shelter.

The shelter must have ventilation.

The area should be appropriate for the number of students, teachers and staff who can be in the school at the same time (at least 1 square metre per person). In shelters that are built from scratch, 3 square metres per person are allocated.

The shelter must be equipped to accommodate students for 2 days, so it must necessarily have a number of items:

places for sitting;

drinking water ( 2 litres per day per person);

technical water (in the absence of central water supply);

a supply of canned and freeze-dried food;

containers for food;

backup artificial lighting (electric lights, lamps);

Tightly closable portable tanks (if there is no toilet);

telephone, radio or other means of communication;

fire extinguishers;

a first aid kit with emergency medical supplies;

tools (shovels, crowbars).

Read the full list of recommendations for setting up a shelter here.

If the criteria are not met and the commission’s conclusion is negative?

The school’s administration makes a decision to introduce distance learning until the flaws identified by the commission are eliminated.

Where can parents of children complain if the shelter in a full-time or mixed-format school is in poor condition?

Parents can initiate a re-inspection of the shelter by the responsible authorities themselves. In this case, they should contact the education department of their city or district or the founder of the general secondary education institution – the city or village council. 

The commission will check the shelter again.

Is it possible to pick up a child from school if the alert has not yet been cancelled?

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine does not recommend letting a child leave school during an air raid alert. The final decision is made by the head of the educational institution. At the same time, he or she is responsible for the life and safety of all participants of the educational process.

Are parents of students allowed to enter the school shelter during an alert?

Yes. Parents who have come to pick up their child or who have just brought their child to school should be allowed into the shelter and may stay there with their child until the air raid alert ends.

If the alarm starts while the child and the child’s parent or other legal guardian are on their way to school, they should go to the nearest shelter. In the school, if it is close, or to any other.

Are civilians who are not involved in the educational process allowed into school shelters during an alert?

​​Local governments manage the use of the fund of protective structures, which means that they determine the format of operation of shelters, including school shelters. It is local authorities that decide whether to open shelters in educational institutions to everyone when there are no classes. 

During lessons, the shelter must first and foremost accommodate students, teachers, and school staff.

That is why the educational process during the war is adapted so that during lessons as many people are in school as a particular school shelter can accommodate.

Due to the long flights of Russian MiG aircraft, the alarms have become longer, so children stay in shelters for 4-5 hours. Are there any plans to change the algorithm of actions in schools in this regard?

No. The Ministry has no plans to change the recommendations for schools, as air raid alerts mean there is a potential danger. Therefore, it is not recommended to expose participants of the educational process to danger.

During a remote lesson, an alert starts, and the teacher doesn’t let the child go to the shelter. What should be done?

When classes are held remotely, students are at home, so parents are responsible for the safety of their children.

However, the Ministry of Education has developed guidelines for teachers in such cases. They are advised to interrupt remote education if the alert starts so that children can go to the shelter and resume education after the alarm has been cancelled or, if possible, from the shelter. If the children are in different regions, the teacher should react and let the student in whose city there is a missile threat go to the shelter. If an air alert is announced in the teacher’s region, the teacher has the right to stop the online class, go to the shelter, and, if possible, organise the continuation of the class after the alert has been cancelled or from the shelter.

You can complain about the teacher’s illegal actions to the school principal. If there is no response, you should contact the State Education Quality Service or the local education department.

Is there a requirement for schools to continue education in a shelter during an air alert?

​​There is no such requirement, because very few school shelters have conditions for learning. Their main goal is the safety of the child. If the shelter is large and divided into rooms with separate classrooms, and the children are not disturbed by external noise, then the learning process can continue. Otherwise, teachers organise games and do everything they can to distract students from fear and anxiety.

How does education take place in schools in the frontline areas?

Institutions in areas of increased danger where it is impossible to protect children and teachers may be switched to distance learning. There are cases when institutions are put on a standstill and the school doesn’t work. Then children are transferred to other schools and teachers are paid at least two-thirds of their salary.

Also, some schools located close to the frontline or the border with Russia continue full-time education. In Kharkiv, for example, for those who wish, regular classes are organised in specially equipped subway premises.

If a child moves to another city from a frontline area, where should he or she study?

This decision is made by parents. A child can continue to study remotely at his or her school (if the school is not closed) or go to a local school in the place where he or she was evacuated. 

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine recommends that children should attend school instead of studying remotely, if possible. This contributes to socialisation and better academic performance.

However, absolutely all children should learn. This is their right, and the duty of their parents is to exercise it. If a child doesn’t receive an education, parents can be held liable.

Watch the full interview with Andriy Stashkiv, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, for on the SPRAVDI YouTube channel.

How schools should prepare for air raids

The head of the institution must issue an order or instruction on how the institution will operate during an air alert and make it public to parents in advance.

It is advisable to create a single channel of communication in the educational institution between the school management, teachers and parents to have up-to-date information on the situation (a group or chat in one of the messengers).

School management should inform parents in advance where the shelter is located so that they know where they can pick up their child after the air raid is over. In particular, in case the internet and mobile phone connection is lost during the alert.

Rules of stay in the shelter

Before going to the shelter, shut off gas, electricity, and water at home, close windows and vents.

If you can’t leave the room on your own, tell your neighbors about it.

You can’t take to the shelter:

  • flammable substances;
  • substances with a strong odor;
  • bulky items;
  • animals.

Persons with children are placed in separate compartments.

People with ill health are placed in a medical room or near enclosing structures and closer to ventilation. Therefore, it is essential to equip a separate room for the toilet.

It is forbidden to smoke, make noise, light candles in the building without permission. Therefore, it is necessary to adhere to discipline and move as little as possible.

While in the shelter, watch the announcements on the radio, do not leave the shelter until the message that it is safe to go. You can leave the room earlier only if the shelter is damaged.

Important information for the media, bloggers and all citizens who photograph or write about war and the army

What is categorically prohibited to be covered by the mass media during wartime:

  • names of bases and subdivisions, as well as their locations
  • the number of soldiers in bases and units
  • the number of weapons and equipment, their condition and place of storage
  • conditional marks of objects

Any information about:

  • operations carried out or planned
  • system of protection and defense of military units
  • available military protection such as: weapons and equipment(except visible or obviously expressed)
  • procedure for engaging forces (military) and facilities (weapons)
  • intelligence gathering
  • movement and deployment of troops (names, numbers, routes)
  • military units and their tactics, methods of action
  • unique operations and their execution methods
  • the effectiveness of the enemy’s electronic warfare
  • postponed or canceled operations
  • missing or crashed aircraft, ship and search and rescue operations
  • plans for the security of our troops (disinformation, camouflage, countermeasures)
  • informational and psychological operations carried out or planned
  • propaganda or justification of russia’s large-scale armed aggression against Ukraine.

Do not post on social media:

  • consequences of hits by enemy’s missiles or projectiles or moments of their flight in the sky. By doing so you will help the enemy to adjust the fire.
  • time and place of “hits” (neither in publications nor in comments)
  • information about the work of the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces
  • a photo showing numbers, special markings and markings on destroyed or downed enemy equipment.
  • unverified information about victims or dead.