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Thanks to the newly opened shelter, customers now feel more secure

Thanks to the newly opened shelter, customers now feel more secure

In Tallinn, the first 23 shelters were determined, the first of which – the car park under Freedom Square – was marked accordingly today. Such shelters can be accessed by people who happen to be on the streets nearby should we be unexpectedly hit by a crisis of any kind, from a natural disaster to a military threat.

The shelter locations were determined by the Rescue Board in cooperation with the municipal police.

Watch the video: 
13.06.2022 - Estonia's first public shelter opened on Freedom Square - YouTube

"Of course, it's a highly welcome initiative," said entertainment entrepreneur Sten-Erik Jantson, who also runs a café on Freedom Square. “Now at least I know where to go if something really bad happens.”

In his own home, Jantson says he hasn't yet considered how he could prepare for an unexpected emergency. But he promised to stock up on supplies and also to check his basement at home. At least the café's customers feel more secure now, he says. It's just a few steps to get to the shelter in the car park at the base of Freedom Square.

The shelters are multifunctional

The 23 shelters in different parts of Tallinn that have been checked by Tallinn Municipal Police are located on premises belonging to the city. This is so that they can be set up as quickly as possible. At the same time, however, negotiations are ongoing with private landlords to create shelters in their buildings – for example in underground car parks in shopping centres. We have been working in close cooperation with the Rescue Department.

The first shelter was marked in the car park under Freedom Square. In the coming weeks, the remaining 22 that have so far been determined will be marked. It should be a gathering place for people on surrounding streets in the event of some kind of unexpected crisis – a military attack, or even a severe winter storm that temporarily cuts off traffic.

For example, older people and those in generally poor health can go to a shelter during a heatwave if it is difficult to stay at home. The Freedom Square café is a good example in that it has large floor-to-ceiling glass windows and may not be very safe in a crisis. Both the rescue services and the municipal police emphasise that the shelters are still intended for people in the surrounding streets or in restaurants nearby. In the event of an emergency, people who are in their homes should still seek shelter in the basements of their houses or the nearest underground car park. Simply staying at home is also safer than being on the street in a crisis.

“The shelters are primarily intended for those who are in public urban spaces and need to find shelter quickly,“ said Aivar Toompere, head of the municipal police. “Once the sites that have already been selected are marked, we will look for more.“

500 people could fit under the square

According to Lea Vainulti, National Defence Adviser at the Emergency Preparedness Department of the Rescue Board, there should be one square metre of space per person. The car park at the base of Freedom Square is 498 square metres. So it could accommodate around 500 people. It depends, of course, on how quickly the car park can be cleared of cars.

“The events in Ukraine have shown how important it is to protect the population,“ said Kuno Tammearu, Director General of the Rescue Board, at the ceremonial installation of the shelter sign at the base of Freedom Square. In June, shelters will be marked in four major Estonian cities. According to Tammearu, it is also important to complete the development of the alert system. This should be done using SMS and sirens.

For his part, Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart stressed that it is very important to think about how to protect your people in a crisis.
In addition to the shelters, a network of bunkers should be developed in the city, he said. Unlike a shelter, which could be an underground car park or the basement of a building, bunkers must meet specific structural durability requirements. They must therefore be designed accordingly.
According to the mayor, Tallinn's efforts to start building shelters are demonstrated by the plan to build two underground bunker floors for the Tallinn Hospital, which is in the planning stage. It could be used to shelter patients and help them in emergencies. According to the mayor, development here depends on cooperation between the city and the state authorities.

According to Kõlvart, serious thought should also be given to whether to start requiring bunkers in all new construction projects. In Finland, as we know, this is exactly the path that has been followed and the policy pursued throughout the post-war period.

At the end of March, the government decided to allocate €86 million to internal security, just over half of which will go to civil protection. Information is currently available at and and from the Get Ready! app.

The plan is also to create a map app of Tallinn's shelters, which will be available for everyone to see online. Of course, it would be highly advisable for people to know the locations of the nearest public shelters on their daily routes.
Look shelters on map.

There are currently 23 established shelters in Tallinn, but more will be added.
Kristiine District Administration Building Metalli 5
Kristiine Building Metalli 3
Haabersti District Administration Building Ehitajate road 109a/1
Põhja-Tallinn Estonian Refugee Council Niine 2
Põhja-Tallinn Salme Cultural Centre Salme 12
Pirita District Administration Building Kloostri road 6
Pirita Pirita school Metsavahi road 19
Nõmme District Administration Building Valdeku tn 13
Nõmme Social-housing Pihlaka 12
Lasnamäe Lasnamäe Sport Facility Pae 1
Lasnamäe Tondiraba Ice Hall Varraku 14
City centre Freedom Square car park/tunnel Vabaduse väljak 9
City centre Kaubamaja tunnel Laikmaa
City centre Liivalaia tunnel Liivalaia 5
City centre Balti Jaama Tunnel Toompuiestee
City centre Margareeta aed Bunker Pikk 72, bunker
City centre Margareeta aed Citysec Pikk 72, bunker
City centre City centre Social Centre Liivalaia 32
Mustamäe District Administration Building E. Vilde road 118
Mustamäe Day centre for the elderly Ehitajate road 109a/82
Mustamäe Underground garage Sütiste road 32 b
City centre Old National Archive Tõnismägi 16/1
City centre RKS Building Lasnamäe 2