UrbanRubryka 12:01 28 Dec 2022

How to make your bomb shelter more comfortable? Solutions everyone can use

Basements or other temporary shelters can be equipped with your needs in mind to make the stay there tolerable and distracting from russia's attacks.

What is the problem?

There are no safe regions and cities in Ukraine today, as evidenced by the daily russian shelling of our homes. Shelters allow us to wait out enemy attacks in relative peace — we got used to sitting in the basements of our houses or other temporary shelters in ten months of full-scale war. But we can make them more comfortable. You can equip the refuge on your own or bring things that will calm you, your child, or your pet during air raids. What are we talking about? And how to make your stay in the basement more pleasant? Rubryka found several practical solutions.

What is the solution?

What must be in your shelter?

Shelter areas where you stay during air raids (basements, cellars, parking lots) must be ready for at least 48 hours of your stay there. Inside should include: 

  • places to sit/lie down, 
  • water tank, 
  • backup power supply, 
  • portable tanks, 
  • means of heating and fire extinguishing, 
  • artificial backup lighting, 
  • entrenching tool, 
  • first aid kit,
  • food containers. 

This is the basic, simplest set. Everything else is up to you and your needs.


How to prepare your shelter for kids?

You can also prepare a shelter in advance for children to stay there. For them, you should buy or set aside special toys that you do not use at other times.

"You should not tell the child, say, we are going to sit out in the shelter. Instead, say that you will do something interesting in the basement. You can stock up on something useful — coloring pages, sets of constructors, etc. You should take everything that interests the child," says psychologist Ellina Karepova.

You can buy glow toys and battery-powered garlands if the child is afraid of the dark. They will be a beacon that will calm your kid. In addition, you can buy therapeutic toys called hibuki. We wrote about them in this article.

How to prepare your shelter for pets?


For animals, as well as for people, there should be a supply of feed and water. Your pets require a lot — both for drinking and technical purposes. For a cat, you need to have a travel box. You should have at least a collar and a leash for a dog. You should also take care of animal toilets.

Pavlo Kulyk, dog trainer and zoopsychologist, says that a shelter for a dog must have something warm. For example, a plaid will warm your pet. So that the animal is not nervous, you should prepare something of the owner in advance, like a glove, a hat, a scarf, or a sweater. The smell will reduce the animal's stress level, especially if you have to leave the dog with strangers for a short time.

Also, according to Pavlo Kulyk, ideally, you should have a first-aid kit for your animal — veterinary drugs of first necessity, which will include:

  • anti-vomiting and anti-poisoning drugs, 
  • hemostatic drugs, healing agents, and stress-reducing agents (veterinarians will help you choose them, and they will determine the dosage, which will depend on the weight of your animal).

It is important to properly deal with the animal's stress during its stay in the shelter. Out of fear, a dog may jump on a person or behave aggressively.

"If you stroke the animal and talk to it in a kind tone at these moments, then you encourage such behavior. Therefore, the best way to treat an animal in a shelter is to forbid it from acting up. Even using the leash will be effective. If the dog is shaking, you can try to lead it through the shelter in a circle," says Pavlo Kulyk.

How to make your shelter bright?


Zhytomyr activists painted the basement of a high-rise building with Petrykivka painting. This became possible thanks to the Art In Bunker: Art Therapy For Children of Zhytomyr initiative and part of the Supporting Mothers and Children During War In Ukraine project, which Zhytomyr Youth NGO Parity implements. According to Alina Kundich, a volunteer and coordinator of tactical urbanism initiatives, the head of the Zhytomyr Regional Youth Public Organization Parity came across the first painted basement in Lutsk and then offered to decorate Zhytomyr shelters. 

"In the gray and gloomy basement of a residential building, our artist proposed to paint a bright and warm  Petrykivka painting and a bull painting by Maria Prymachenko, whose museum was damaged as a result of the russian occupation. And at the end, together with the children, we decided to add wishes on the walls and left inscriptions: 'Say Palianytsia,' 'Glory to Ukraine,' 'Dream,' which would give strength to those people hiding in it during the air raid," says Alina Kundich.


About 50 people joined the initiative in May-June 2022: children, their parents, volunteers, and interested residents of Zhytomyr. For them, says Alina Kundich, it became a kind of art therapy. Together they drew, talked, ate cookies, and exchanged videos and photos of the process. 

The initiative's participants decorated the basement, painted several dozen canvases with Ukrainian motifs, and created a mural on the theme of free Ukraine.

How to paint your shelter?


Tips from Anastasia Sladkovska, an artist from Zhytomyr

  1. The shelter should be dry and warm. Walls for pictures should not have wet spots or exudation (usually, external walls are not very suitable). Before painting, the walls should be primed with a universal primer (for example, Ceresit) and let the walls dry for a day (it is better to ventilate during drying because the vapors of the primer are harmful).
  2. It is better to use paint for facade works. 
  3. On the primed and dried wall, mark the drawing with a pencil or chalk and paint it with paints
  4. The selected paint dries quickly. Outside in warm weather, it takes up to 20 minutes. While working in the shelter, you should warm up and simultaneously ventilate the room because the vapors are harmful if you breathe them for a long time.
  5. The main thing is to think over the drawing in advance, carefully prepare everything, mark it up, and then the work will go quickly, especially if you involve many people.

Who makes shelters more comfortable in Ukraine?

Help with generators


In Ivano-Frankivsk, the city council gives generators to citizens in exchange for an equipped shelter and a heating-up point. What should you do? Clean the basement, which will serve as a shelter for the residents of several buildings, and buy everything necessary for it. The cover will be inspected by a committee that will assess the quality of the work. 

What has to be in a shelter

  • pointers; 
  • first aid kit; 
  • drinking and technical water; 
  • personal protective equipment (antiseptics); 
  • places to sit; 
  • disposable dishes; 
  • extinguisher; 
  • garbage bags (bins); 
  • additional lighting (flashlights, candles); 
  • hygiene products (detergents, paper towels); 
  • free access to the premises; 
  • sanitary condition of the premises; extension lead with sockets; 
  • source of additional heating (heating fan, heater).

Ivano-Frankivsk has already distributed 20 generators as of the end of November.

In Dnipro, residents of co-ops can purchase generators for 25% of the price; the city budget will pay the rest. Homes with autonomous heating are helped with the purchase of devices.  

"The main purpose of these generators is to provide the house with critical infrastructure. That is, we provide these generators not so that people connect them to elevators, lighting in the house, etc. They are only for emergencies: the pipes do not freeze, and the whole house does not flood. This is the priority of our pilot project," said Vladyslav Makarets, head of the city council's self-organization department.

Bright shelters for children

Як облаштувати укриття для дітей

In Bucha, the B50 Volunteers team arranged a bright shelter in the city's largest kindergarten, Kozachok. The volunteers faced the task of turning 200 m2 of a dark basement with bare gray walls into a place of physical and emotional safety for children to have pleasant associations with the shelter. 

In about a month, the volunteers cleaned the bomb shelter, prepared the walls, painted them with children's drawings, and arranged the floor. Five zones appeared inside: for rest, development, activity, hygiene, and medical assistance.

The B50 Volunteers team is ready to set up shelters in kindergartens and schools in the Kyiv region, Chernihiv region, and Zhytomyr region. To invite volunteers to your institution, you should fill out this form.

Kharkiv's Relive experience

проєкт Relive

The Relive project from the Volonterska Charitн Foundation operates in Kharkiv. At the end of August, a team of volunteers began to arrange city basements. 

"What is security in the conditions of war? This is either air defense or shelters. Either we shoot down missiles, or we hide from them. We considered buying something to strengthen the air defense and even researched the subject. We understood that we could not buy anything like that. Therefore, the second way remained to equip bomb shelters," says the founder of the project, Maks Burtsev.

From the city, the team received a list of basements we could hypothetically convert and consulted with rescuers to understand what standards the future shelter would have to meet. But it turned out that many cellars could not be rebuilt at all because some of them were flooded, and others did not meet the requirements of rescuers. 

While refurbishing the shelter, the Relive team does the following: cleaning, plumbing, conducting sewage, ventilation, and electricity, and placing pallets to lie down.

The most challenging work stages are installing sanitary ware, sewerage, and primary cleaning.

The average cost of one finished basement is $1,200. But everything depends on the condition of the shelter because you can spend 600 dollars or 3 thousand dollars. About 80% of these sums are materials and equipment; the rest are transport costs and feeding the teams.

Relive put 157 temporary bomb shelters in order, where 11,000 city residents can find shelter (data as of the end of November). After the repair, the volunteers give the keys to the cover to the people who will be responsible for it. Currently, Relive is thinking about how to turn these furnished basements into heating points so that the townspeople are warm in the winter.

Tips from Relive team to spruce up your basement

  1. Contact the city authorities or those bodies responsible for buildings and, accordingly, shelters in them (these can be co-ops, for example). You can't do anything without their permission, not even enter the basement.
  2. Write down all the standards of the equipped shelter: what should be there, apart from the points required by the State Emergency Service? 
  3. Select construction teams that will adhere to the deadlines and standards for the conversion of the premises.
  4. If you are a foundation that wants to replicate the experience of the Relive team and deal with the equipment of city basements, and not just your own, then you should have a portfolio of successful projects. International donors are scrupulous about those who apply for funding. It is important for them that Ukrainian projects already have a positive history.

This article was created by the Rubryka online publication within the Ukraine Rapid Response Fund program, implemented by IREX with the support of the US State Department. The content is the sole responsibility of the Rubryka online publication and does not necessarily reflect the views of IREX or the US State Department.



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