Civil defense

History of civil defence and shelter building after 1945

Shortly after the end of World War 2, mid-war provisions of air defence applied in Poland. On 26 February 1951, the lower house of the Polish parliament (Sejm) adopted a law establishing the Territorial Air Defence. Pursuant to the resolution of the Council of Ministers of 10 October 1952, large investments in protective structures began. Air raid shelters were being located in newly erected buildings in 72 cities most endangered with an attack. In the mid 50s, in view of the growing threat of nuclear weapon, works on the conception of nuclear defence were initiated, which resulted in implementation of new guidelines for shelter construction.

At the same time, due to the costliness of applied solutions, the number of investments in protective structures was reduced. First, pursuant to the resolution of the Council of Ministers of 15 February 1958, the number of cities was reduced to 30 and further on, by virtue of the resolution of the Council of Ministers on ceasing to apply the Territorial Air Defence regulations while constructing new building dated 29 September 1960, the implementation of protective engineering was entirely abandoned.

In the middle of 1960s, bodies of the Territorial Air Defence started being subordinate to military structures. On 20 December 1965, the Territorial Air Defence Headquarters was liquidated and superseded by the Inspectorate for Common Self-Defence. These changes were sanctioned only in 1967 with a resolution of the lower house of the Polish parliament (Sejm) on the general defence obligation. During the time of operation of the Common Self-Defence, the idea to build shelters returned, however only in a limited scope – since 1966 in newly erected industry plants subordinate to the department of power industry and mining, and since 1968 – subordinate also to the departments of heavy industry, and machines. At the same time, strength criteria for the constructed buildings were raised and adjusted to standards applicable in the USSR.

Works to develop a new civil defence strategy for the country were initiated at the turn of the 60s and 70s, and led to establishing Civil Defence on 18 May 1973. It had a much wider scope of operation that the Territorial Air Defence and the Common Self-Defence, particularly during peace time (fighting natural disasters and eliminating results thereof). In 1974-1975 also new regulations concerning protective engineering were put in place – the scope was increased but the obligation to construct new shelters applied only to selected production plants. For all other people, it was planned to arrange “substitute protective structures” during periods of increased state defence readiness and the initial period of a war. There was also a new regulation on the modernisation of existing shelters. The project, however, had no regular financing and covered only few spots.

The final change to the shelter engineering was introduced on 28 June 1984, when strength parameters of constructed shelters were adjusted to the incredibly high standards set by other Warsaw Pact members. Costliness of such investments, as well as difficulties of technical and execution nature resulted quickly in virtually putting a stop to the implementation of protective engineering. Pursuant to Act of 29 October 2003 on the amendment of the act on the obligation of common defence of the Republic of Poland, as of 1 July 2004 the regulation on protective engineering ceases to apply. The Polish law currently does not provide for a definition of a protective structure, shelter or protected space.

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