Experts reassuring but also urge Lithuanians to be prepared

Vilnius
Vilnius

Russia’s month-long invasion of Ukraine is changing the mood in Lithuania. People wonder whether there would be enough places for everyone to shelter safely in a disaster. For their part, the country’s authorities reassure that collective shelter structures could accommodate more than 1.2 million people – 40% of Lithuania’s population. The rest would have to hide in basements and underground parking lots. However, experts also urge people to prepare themselves by having food supplies, a survival bag and other actions, Andresa Rušytė writes in TV3.lt.

On Friday, at the Fire and Rescue Department (FRA), Deputy Minister of the Interior Vitalij Dmitrijev and Deputy Director of the FRA Mindaugas Kanapickas presented information on the results of the inventory of collective protection structures (CPS).

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“I will repeat that there is no such [war] threat in Lithuania today, but we want to do this work in advance,” the deputy minister said on Friday.

He and Kanapickas reassured the population but also warned that people should calmly prepare for possible disasters now and told them what steps should be taken.

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“We can see that people in individual residential communities collectively see a solution to the potential problem. We have already heard more than once that April is cleanliness month and that we need to organise campaigns and take away all the currently accumulated items” said Mr Kanapickas.

“We are also focusing on having at least three days’ worth of supplies. Those food supplies or a survival bag can be part of every family’s plan”, added Mr Dmitriev.

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10% of the population could take shelter in the basements of collective protection structures

According to experts, there are 1,937 collective protection structures in Lithuania. Of these, 1,099 have either basements or ground floors.

The Minister of the Interior, V. Dmitriev, confirmed that about 10% of the population could use the basements or basement floors of collective protection buildings, which “would be more suitable in the event of a war”.

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“We have estimated that collective defence structures could accommodate about 40% of the country’s population, and we have estimated how many such structures have a basement or a basement floor. In our view, these basements or basement floors could provide temporary shelter for about 10% of the country’s population,” he explained.

The Deputy Minister also points out that meetings are continuing with municipalities and other ministries, as “there are certainly ideas on what can be done in this area”.

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“We may be able to talk about amending certain legislation which, at the moment, regulates both the requirements for collective protection structures and the organisation of civil protection”, he confirmed.

Mindaugas Kanapickas, deputy director of the PRT, pointed out that 43% of the population could be accommodated in “public buildings”.

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“What the deputy minister mentioned is that in those buildings, about 10% of the rooms are located in basements or in plinths. So those rooms would certainly be more suitable than rooms on the first, second or third floor, which are equipped with windows precisely in the event of an air hazard,” he said.

The PRT is also currently inventorying the potential areas of other buildings that are located below floor 0.

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“These would be underpasses, underground car parks and so on. Preliminary estimates suggest that we could accommodate about 1.2 million people in those facilities. Again, we have started this work with the local authorities, and the preliminary figures are encouraging. <…> Previously, working with the Centre of Registers, we took stock of the basement and ground floor areas throughout Lithuania, including apartment blocks, single-family houses, etc. These figures show that all Lithuanian residents could find shelter in their own homes,” emphasised Mr Kanapickas.

Bilotaitė: 40% of the population would have enough collective protection structures

“We have gathered information from the Centre of Registers on the basements, underground car parks and ground floors in Lithuania. And the information we have tells us that all Lithuanian residents could certainly find shelter in these buildings. This is a theoretical calculation and a model, which is why we have asked the municipalities to assess the objects themselves, their situation, their condition and, if necessary, to take certain steps to adapt these premises”, stated the Minister of the Interior Agnė Bilotaitė.

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According to the Fire Protection and Rescue Department (PAGD), there are 1,903 collective shelter structures in Lithuania, which could accommodate more than 1.2 million people – 40% of the Lithuanian population. Municipalities are responsible for the condition of these structures.

According to the Minister, all municipalities are recommended to provide safe workplaces for decision-makers. However, according to Ms Bilotaitė, only 19 municipalities in Lithuania, which are located in the danger zone of the Astravas nuclear power plant, currently have such a requirement.

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“We recommended that all municipalities should both assess themselves and draw up algorithms and places where they would work in the event of an appropriate situation,” said Ms Bilotaitė.

According to the current legislation, at least 10% of the municipality’s population, excluding children and people with disabilities, must find shelter in collective protection structures in each municipality.

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Important for everyone: how to prepare for disasters

The painful events in Ukraine are also causing concern for the population of our country. The Fire and Rescue Department, therefore, reminds us that detailed information on how to prepare for possible disasters can be found on the Lithuanian emergency preparedness website LT72

“We are currently overwhelmed by the painful events in Ukraine, so the most important thing we should do now is preparing for possible disasters instead of worrying. Indeed, knowledge is protection. Therefore, the better prepared we are, the less anxious and safer we will be,” says Donatas Gurevičius, Chief of the Civil Protection Division of the Vilnius Fire and Rescue Department Vilnius Fire and Rescue Board.

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He says that civil protection experts advise you to always prepare for unexpected situations in advance and discuss what you would do in one situation or another with your family. Assess what you have and what you might need based on your needs and whether you would stay at home or seek other, safer shelter in the event of a disaster. Decide where you will meet your family members if you are all in different places in the event of a disaster. Write down the addresses of meeting places and phone numbers of people close to you.

“To avoid wasting time during a disaster, have all the things you need to be packed in advance. We usually have most of them. It’s just important to put them in one place. You may need them not only in an emergency evacuation but also if you plan to stay at home,” advises Gurevičius. “We all know that even after a strong wind or storm or a power outage, having a supply of non-perishable food, water and essentials can help you survive while you wait for help. Assess your needs and those of your loved ones in advance, and replenish if you think something is missing. Don’t forget extra light sources, cells, mobile phone chargers, medicines, documents.”

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It is advisable to keep your essentials packed for quick retrieval. Other family members need to know where they are kept at home. For information on essential items to keep in your departure bag, see here

For information on essential food items that will be useful in an emergency, see here.

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If you do not know if you will receive alert notifications, please make sure you have this feature on your mobile phone.

How to activate it on your phone is available here

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You can also find out how to behave in an emergency in the interactive memos created by Talentator and shared by educational institutions in Vilnius.

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