NATO member takes stock of its bomb shelters
Poland has reportedly begun taking an inventory of the country’s bomb shelters to ensure that they’re ready for public use in the event of an emergency. The initiative comes amid increased targeting of civilian infrastructure in the nearby Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The inspections of an estimated 62,000 “places of refuge” are being carried out by district fire departments, Polstat News reported on Monday, citing comments by Maciej Wasik, Poland’s deputy minister of interior and administration. The review will assess whether each shelter is properly equipped and fit for use. “If not, we will take steps to adapt them,” Wasik said.
Although the initiative comes at a time when the conflict in neighboring Ukraine is escalating, the public official stressed that Poles aren’t in danger. “We are in NATO, we are part of the European Union,” Wasik said. “We are not participants in this war, although we strongly support Ukraine, but Poland is a safe country.”
We are preparing for the darkest scenarios. We are committed to this. We are prepared for them, although there is little likelihood that they will take place.
The shelter assessment will take about two months to complete. It was planned in advance, Wasik noted, saying it was a coincidence that the shelter review was reported on the same day that Russia carried out air strikes on infrastructure targets in Kiev and other major cities. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strikes were done in retaliation for what he called a Ukrainian terrorist attack on the strategic Crimean Bridge.
When asked why the shelter inventory was being done more than seven months after the Ukraine crisis began, Wasik said the Polish government had been “sorting out the things that had been forgotten since the Cold War.” Warsaw has been one of the most belligerent anti-Russia voices in NATO amid the conflict, calling for harsher sanctions and suggesting that the US place nuclear weapons in Poland.
The country’s 62,000 civilian shelters reportedly have combined capacity to host about 1.3 million people, which is equivalent to only about 3.4% of Poland’s population. Some areas, such as Wielkopolska province, have no such public facilities. Wasik’s ministry suggested in June that Poles could take shelter in garages and basements.