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MILITARY

EXPLAINED: What kind of state are Sweden’s bomb shelters in?

Sweden's Civil Contingencies Agency is this month sending information out to the owners of properties housing bomb shelters on what they need to do to get their shelters up to the required standard.

A sign for a bomb shelter in central Malmö.
A sign for a bomb shelter in central Malmö. Photo: Richard Orange
What condition are Sweden’s 64,000 bomb shelters in? 
 
No one really knows.
 
Ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, the Civil Contingencies Agency only had sufficient funding to inspect 2,000 a year. In 2020, only about 20 percent of Sweden’s 64,000 shelters had been inspected in the preceding ten years, and of those, only 9,000 had passed. This suggests that at least 30 percent are not up to scratch. 
 
Many of the bomb shelters are currently used as cycle sheds or storage for the people who live in the buildings where they are situated. 
 
The agency insists, however, that “most of the shelters are fully useable” even though they may have failed an inspection and it says it expects bomb shelters to be used for other purposes during peacetime.
 
What are Sweden’s bomb shelters designed to protect against? 
 
They are designed to protect citizens against the shock wave from a bomb, shrapnel, fires, ionising radiation, and debris from collapsing buildings. They also have ventilation systems to keep out poison gasses and radioactive dust. 
 
 
How quickly should the owners of properties with bomb shelters be able to ready them for use? 
 
Property owners are responsible for maintaining and equipping any bomb shelters on their properties. They are supposed to be able to convert the spaces into functional bomb shelters within 48 hours.
 
Kaj Lindblom, one of the two leaders of Skyddsrumsspecialisten, which has built, maintained, and renovated bomb shelters since 1973, told The Local that his company estimated that only five percent of bomb shelters could be ready within this time. 
 

Listen to a discussion about Sweden’s bomb shelters on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

About half, he said, lack functional ventilation, with many still having the same filters in place as when they were built in the 1940s. Many also still have paper toilets dating back to the 1960s and earlier (which are used in conjunction with plastic bags), rather than the more modern plastic bucket toilets. The paper toilets, he said, need to be replaced. 
 
Another common problem, he said, was that non-specialist builders often drill through the walls of bomb shelters to bring in water or electricity, and have often not done this in the right way, losing the rooms their protective functions. 
 
“There have been too few checks, and property owners have had too low a level of knowledge on what their responsibilities are,” he told The Local. “They’ve also expected that the Civil Contingencies Agency will not check shelters”. 
 
 
 
Are there enough bomb shelters for everyone? 
 
Nope. 
 
Sweden stopped building bomb shelters in 2002, and the number of places has not kept pace with the increased size of the population. The 64,000 bomb shelters only offer sufficient places for about seven million of Sweden’s 10 million people, and many city districts built since 2002 entirely lack shelters. 
 
Each bomb shelter is designed to provide only 0.75 square metres per person — about 85cm by 85cm — so while you will be protected, you won’t be comfortable. 
 
They are designed to be stayed in for at least 72 hours. 
 
 
So what’s being done? 
 
The Civil Contingencies Agency is sending out a brochure to the owners of all properties which house a bomb shelter with a checklist specifying what condition the shelter needs to be in, and what equipment needs to be available.
 
 
“It’s most often just a case of quite simple maintenance,” Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, the Civil Contingencies Agency’s Director-General, told Sweden’s TT newswire. “Putting some oil on the hinges, doing some rust treatment, and making sure the bomb shelter equipment is available.” 
 
The agency has also called for some of the 800 million kronor in extra civil defence spending announced last month to go towards renovating the largest bomb shelters in major cities. 
 
On top of this, the government has launched an inquiry into whether the country needs to build new bomb shelters, with the conclusions due on November 7th. 
 
Skyddsrumsspecialisten has designed a free-standing bomb shelter that can be erected in newly built areas of Swedish cities, where they will double as an additional cycle shelter or recycling room. 
 
 
What equipment needs to be present in all bomb shelters? 
 
According to the Civil Contingencies Agency, all bomb shelters need to feature the following equipment: 
  • an air lock 
  • shelter doors,
  • a threshold – fixed or mountable
  • an alternative exit, made from concrete or with a steel hatch
  • a ventilation unit
  • protective filters
  • pressure relief valves 
  • a shock wave valve – one per ventilation unit
  • supply air ducts
  • a heating device
  • lighting
  • capture devices for lighting fixtures and heating elements
  • sealing strips for doors. These strips must be stored in a package in peacetime
  • taps, drains on the floor, a vent, and for shelters built after 1961, a key to open and close the drain. 
  • toilet walls, a toilet, and water barrels
  • tools for dismantling any equipment or furniture in place for peacetime use and getting the shelter ready. 
  • instructions for assembling, operating, and maintaining the shelter
 

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NATO

Sweden ‘to send in Nato request on Monday’

Sweden will express its interest in joining the Nato alliance on Monday, Sweden's Expressen newspaper has reported, citing anonymous sources.

Sweden 'to send in Nato request on Monday'

According to the newspaper, Magdalena Andersson will call a governmental meeting late on Monday where the decision on whether to join Nato will be made, after which the country will send in formal documentation immediately.

Officials at Sweden’s foreign ministry have been drafting the text for several weeks, the paper claims, meaning it is now complete and ready to be submitted. 

The meeting will follow a debate scheduled in Sweden’s Riksdag parliament for 10.30am on Monday morning, which will discuss the conclusions of the Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’, which is due to submit its reassessment of Sweden’s security situation this Friday. The anti-Nato Left and Green parties are unlikely to support the conclusions of the report and the report is not expected to state explicitly whether Sweden should join the alliance or not.

After the debate, Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, who is on a state visit to Sweden, will hold a speech in the parliament, with the title “a responsible, strong and stable North”. 

Finland on Thursday kicked off the formal process whereby Sweden and Finland are likely to join Nato, when its president Sauli Niinistö and prime minister Sanna Marin published a joint statement recommending that Finland apply to join “without delay”. 

On Sunday, the ruling committee of Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats will take a decision on whether to back Nato membership for Sweden, thereby reversing the policy of non-alignment it has supported since before Nato was founded. 

The formal shift in the Social Democrats’ position will remove the last hurdle to a Swedish decision in favour of joining Nato. 

Here’s a breakdown of how the day might look: 

  • 9am. The day starts at 9am, Swedish time, when the Finnish parliament meets to discuss the decision taken by the government on Sunday. No other parliamentary business is scheduled. According to the Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper the Finnish parliament will also publish the conclusions of its debates in a letter to the government recommending that Finland apply to join Nato.
  • 10.30am. A debate is scheduled in Sweden’s parliament, which will discuss the conclusions of the Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’. 
  • 12am. Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, who is on a state visit to Sweden, will hold a speech in the parliament with the title “a responsible, strong and stable North”. 
  • Afternoon: According to Expressen, Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson will call a governmental meeting late on Monday, where the decision on whether to join Nato will be made.
  • Officials at Sweden’s foreign ministry have been drafting the text of the application for several weeks, the paper claims, meaning it is now complete and ready to be submitted. 
  • Afternoon/Evening: Sweden and perhaps Finland send in applications to join Nato.
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