20 April 2023, 16:08
How City Councils Publish Information on Shelters

With the beginning of the full-scale war of russia against Ukraine, bombs, missiles, and artillery shells targeted the cities. Since February 24, more than 22,000 air raid alerts have been recorded. Shelters have become a protection for millions of lives. However, if earlier, they used to be a place of salvation only on paper, and their condition was so neglected, it seems that in a year, the situation should have changed. Has it changed, though? And how does the local government publish information on shelters now? Find out in the material.

After more than a year of the full-scale invasion, most Ukrainians know where the nearest shelter is and where to go in case of an air raid alert. However, currently, the demand for the list of shelters has decreased; it is logical since there are less air raid alerts compared to 2022.
However, the situation with systematic shelling may change in the future. And again, the information about the list of shelters becomes relevant. This also applies to those regions that are situated relatively in the rear.

Pre-war situation: (un)safe shelters

Shelter is not a wartime innovation; Ukrainian legislation used to regulate the provisions and requirements for protective structures even the full-scale invasion, in particular regarding their operation, ventilation, hermetic state, etc. Local governments should also have published data on the location of shelters.

Some shelters have been preserved since the Cold War, and were in a neglected state. According to the SES, at the beginning of 2022, about 26% of the country's shelters were not ready for their intended use, and no more than 10% of the population could take refuge in them. Rescue sites in documents turned out to be clubs, offices, bars, hairdressers in practice. Among other problems are flooding, clutter, inaccessibility, and lack of equipment in premises.

Correction of mistakes

With the beginning of the full-scale russian invasion, the requirements for protective structures have been upgraded. Thus, the SES outlined recommendations for shelters in educational institutions so that the educational process was safe. In July, a law was passed that allowed approval of urban planning documentation only if it has a section on shelter. And now, it is possible to put new facilities into operation only if they have protective structures.

The authorities and utility workers actively ordered services for the repair of existing and construction of new shelters. In 10 months of 2022, agreements for UAH 2 bln were signed for such works. With these funds, a minimum of 3,400 shelters have been repaired. The biggest expenditures visible are in Kyiv Oblast— 592 shelters for UAH 482 mln, in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast — 307 facilities for UAH 234 mln, and in Lviv Oblast — 429 for UAH 234 mln.

Disclosure of shelter information during 2022

In April, the Transparent Cities team published the results of the assessment of the work of city councils in the context of the war. The study also evaluated the publication of information on shelters.
Thus, of the 70 cities studied, 63 published the corresponding data (as of January 2023), which is a high indicator, but in war conditions all city councils must update the data and inform about it. Only 49 city councils out of 70 ensured that these data were updated at least once every 6 months. 
Seven city councils did not publish official information on shelters at all on their resources during 2022. But it could be published by other authorities — regional military administrations or regional departments of the SES. In some cases, city councils published information only in 2023, which was not included in the analyzed period in our study.
But there are also good examples — some municipalities not only published lists of shelters, but also ensured that these data are displayed on the geoportal of the city or a map on the Google Maps platform, such as ChernivtsiKamianets-Podilskyi, or Cherkasy city councils. This allows finding out: 

  • where is the nearest shelter,
  • what type of damage it protects from,
  • its open hours,
  • whether access to it is unrestricted. 

Such maps have many users. For example, in Kamianets-Podilskyi, the map was viewed almost 700,000 times, although the population of the city is about 100,000

Ternopil City Council created a map with shelters and integrated it into a special application E-Ternopil. Here you can see a list of protective structures by type (anti-radiation, the simplest ones (basements) shelter, shelters at stops), their capacity, Internet access, work schedule, or availability of a bathroom. In addition, during an air raid alert, the app offers a route to the nearest shelter.

How city councils publish information on shelters: an interactive map with links to data from 70 cities of Ukraine

How should the exemplary information on shelters be presented?

Despite significant progress in the field of civil protection, changes in construction standards and upgrading of shelters, the dissemination of information at the local level still have many gaps. At the very least, local authorities do not regularly update or detail data on shelters. Often, informing is reduced to publishing a list with the addresses of shelters. 

The published lists of shelters are not always true, and additional information about shelters such as contacts of the balance holder (in fact, this is the person with the keys who should monitor the condition of the premises) may be unavailable. And this information is important because it can help save lives. 

Good practice is to create an interactive map that will help each resident quickly determine the location of the shelter. It is important to indicate:

  • type of shelter (underground parking, anti-radiation shelter, basement, etc.);
  • who is the balance holder and their contact details;
  • what infrastructure is available (drainage, electricity, communications);
  • shelter open hours and other notes concerning access to it;
  • whether shelter is available for people with limited mobility and people with disabilities;
  • contacts of the hotline to report problems with the premises;
  • whether there is an English version of the map (especially relevant for large cities). 

Updating these data is no less important; it is necessary to regularly remove irrelevant information from the map, notify about new shelters, update information on balance holders and also use as many sources of information disclosure as possible — the website of the city council, city applications, official pages of the city in social networks, geoportal.

As long as the full-scale war continues, the sphere of civil protection should remain one of the key security priorities for local governments. If the civil protection shelter is closed, unsuitable, or in a neglected state — contact the hotlines of city councils for a prompt response. Thus, the city councils of TernopilCherkasyKyiv, and other cities offer such algorithms. If this is not possible, call the emergency services (101) or the police (102).

Proper communication about shelter on the part of city councils is mandatory during the war in the country. And the fulfillment of the above requirements will give the population all the necessary information and improve the possibility of proper accounting and disposal of such premises.