The Estonian state has begun labelling buildings in Tartu, which can be used as public shelters in the event of a war or other major crises. The Rescue Board soon hopes to have suitable places available for people to shelter in every Estonian city.
Should the need arise for people to take shelter from the threat of war, the passageways and underground tunnels of Tallinn's old town could be fairly easily adapted. However, Tartu has no such readily available structures in the public sector. So, the city has had to look elsewhere.
The first shelter to be officially labelled in Tartu was the sports hall of Herbert Masingu School.
Schools make good places for emergency shelters because they can quickly provide refuge for the students (who are studying there), and are also easily accessible for pedestrians on the street.
"The most important thing is to have premises that are used every day for other things. If we leave shelters with no other purpose, there is more of a risk that one day, when they are needed, they will be in a bad state, or unusable, as is the case with the old shelters in Estonia," said Margo Klaos, head of Rescue Board's Southern Rescue Center.
A total of 26 emergency shelters have now been designated in Tallinn, 18 in Tartu and six in Pärnu. In addition to schools, other properties in Tartu have also been marked as shelters, including the basement of the Vanemuine Theater's 'Small Building' (Väike Maja) and the Gunpowder Cellar (Püssirohukelder).
At present, Tartu's shelters could only accommodate a few thousand people. However, it is hoped that, following the example of Pärnu's Port Artur shopping malls, which have already been designated as official shelters, the capacity will increase with assistance from businesses in the private sector.
Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas told ERR, that shelter capacity must be taken into account when new buildings are constructed, particularly for those in important locations in the center of the city.
"We have been coordinating with the Rescue Board on this, so that when work begins on designing the downtown cultural center, in a place as important as the city center, there must also be capacity for shelter," said Klaas.
Siren systems to provide warning of war-related threats and other emergencies are currently being developed nationwide and are expected to be ready for use by this time next year.
A full list of Tartu's emergency shelters can be found here.
Editor: Michael Cole