With the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, discussions on social networks about what is useful to know about preparing premises in an emergency situation can be observed. Experts reassure us that there is no need to take these measures at the moment, but most people feel more at ease knowing what to do in case of a disaster.
Jūratė Kavaliauskienė, Chief Risk Specialist at civil protection company SDG, says it is useful to prepare for emergencies in advance. “The purpose of civil protection is to make people aware and teach them how to behave in one situation or another. In recent weeks, we have had a particular increase in the need to know and learn these things,” says Kavaliauskienė.
It is a good idea to take care and plan what to do in such situations well in advance, she says, and it is recommended that everyone thinks through a plan of action for their own and their family’s safety. “If you are planning to go away, it’s a good idea to consider what you would take with you. If you would be hiding at home, make sure you have suitable facilities. If not, find out how to get to the nearest collective shelter. Also think about how you will get information about the incident” , commented the civil protection expert.
Proper basement preparation
Martynas Naujokas, director of Civinity namai Vilnius, a company providing administration and maintenance services for apartment buildings, says that residents living in an apartment block or dormitory should take care of the common areas (stairs, cellars) themselves. “Residents are by no means left alone to take care of their basements, the building managers are there to help them. The administrator appointed by the municipality carries out annual inspections, regular monitoring, and informs the residents if any discrepancies are found. The discrepancies can vary from a basement room being cluttered with objects to cluttered passageways, and there are many different situations”, commented M. Naujokas, a representative of a multi-apartment administration company.
It is also very important that the basement has a clean floor and lighting. Once all these aspects have been taken into account, it is up to the residents to decide whether they will clean up the premises themselves in accordance with the specified requirements, or whether these works will be carried out by the building administrator.
Mr Naujokas says that in practice, there are all kinds of cases. “When we enter the basement, we see furniture, gas cylinders and fuel tanks stacked to the ceiling. We need to check that the common passages are not locked with bars and complicated locks, for example, if the basement is closed from the inside, there must be a so-called ‘spinner’, which, when turned, opens the basement door from the inside. Windows should be sash windows that do not break, so that water or radiation does not enter in case of an emergency,” emphasises the Director of Civinity namai Vilnius.
Shelter preparation is a community responsibility
The building manager is responsible for ensuring that the premises are safe and fit for use, but it is quicker and smoother to inspect the premises when community members are organised. “It is important for residents to communicate with the building’s chairman, for example, if you see that someone has loaded the basement with cupboards, let’s call the building’s administrator to inform him so that the problem can be fixed as soon as possible and the common passageways and rooms can be prepared properly,” said M. Naujokas, a representative of Civinity Namai in Vilnius, who shared his experience.
Items that will come in handy in the shelter
If you need to evacuate, it is recommended that you have three days’ worth of food and water, and at least two weeks’ worth if you stay in a shelter. “The Fire and Rescue Department provides a five-step programme that is very simple. The first is to be alert: think about how you will get information. The quickest way is to get a notification on your smartphone. In order to receive them, you need to set up a notification function. Next, we need to think about taking an inventory of the shelter, or getting in touch with a contact person who will help you to leave. If you have to evacuate, discuss with your relatives and loved ones which route you will take to avoid getting stuck in traffic jams, and how much food supplies you will have with you,” Kavaliauskienė shared.
She said that it is important to stock up on canned meat, canned vegetables, pulses, cereals, oil, sugar and salt to take care of food. “Of course, you don’t have to have too many products. For example, a pinch of salt is enough for one person, so let’s not overdo it. Honey, tea, coffee – whatever you like. They make us feel better because we are used to them. Water is one of the most important things to have, and it is recommended to have 4 litres per person per day, which includes water for cooking and hygiene,” says civil protection expert J. Kavaliauskienė, sharing her advice.
In addition to food and water, other items may be needed. Although comfort is the least important priority in such a situation, it is worth taking care of it now. “If there are shelves in the room, make sure they can support your weight and that you can not only put things on them, but also sit or lie down. Make sure you have a blanket and sleeping bag,” she says.
A source of light is essential
In case of a power cut, it’s important to have an alternative source of light – a torch is ideal. If there is a window in the room where you plan to shelter, make sure you can cover it, sandbags are the most reliable way to avoid splinters in case of an explosion.
It is also important to keep ventilation in mind, as you will not be able to plug all the cracks and you will need fresh air. If you decide to bring a wood-burning stove into such a room, think about venting the products of combustion, as the room must not be used without air ventilation. “Prepare an extra ventilation hose, a special pipe to be taken outside and fixed”, stressed the civil protection expert.
Safe heating process
If you have to take shelter in the basement during the cold season, it is safer to line the floor under the stove with bricks or a concrete slab to prevent embers from starting a fire. Concrete floors should be covered with wooden planks or sawdust to keep the heat in.
Advice from Vidmantas Balkūnas
Vidmantas Balkūnas, a 15min journalist who has seen more than one military conflict, shares his real-life experience of surviving in shelters on Facebook. Just as we don’t panic when we buy a fire extinguisher, we don’t panic when we prepare for a situation, but on the contrary, we take care of ourselves and our loved ones. The earlier we prepare, the less panic will arise.
In both Nagorno-Karabakh and the Ukrainian war, civilians survived only because they were united in communities. Neighbours watched each other’s houses, reported attacks, and this saved hundreds of lives. Take care of candles and fire extinguishers, because firefighters will not arrive to put out the fire until the situation is over. If you are travelling by car, there will be huge queues for fuel, so make sure you have several jerry cans. As well as cereals or tinned food, you should also have meat, bacon, potatoes and vegetables. Make a food “buffer” that is constantly used and renewed to avoid food spoilage,” writes war journalist V. Balkūnas.
Civil protection expert J. Kavaliauskienė recommends that all residents keep an eye on the Fire Service’s website www.lt72.lt, which contains a list of essential items and information on emergency preparedness.
Take care of the little ones
If you are sheltering with children, think about what activities you would do to keep them occupied and what items they might need.
It is important to remember to take care of your health It is very important not to forget your medicines: if you take them regularly, it is important to take them with you to take care of your health. A bucket with a lid and a bag to put it in should be kept in the room for bowel movements. It should be removed from the room regularly.