The system of protection of the population in the Czech Republic has a number of fundamental shortcomings, people are not sufficiently informed, masks and shelters are lacking
Press release on audit No 22/12 – 27 March 2023
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) verified state budget funds earmarked between 2015 and 2021 for the preparation and provision of the system of protection of the population, which includes in particular warning systems, evacuation, providing shelter and emergency survival of the population. A total of CZK 721 million provided by the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) and the Ministry of Healthcare (MoH) for the preparation for crisis situations was audited. Although the system of protection of the population is a strategic interest of the Czech Republic and at the time of the deteriorating security situation in Europe is of heightened importance, the audit has identified a number of fundamental shortcomings. For example, the MoI did not provide a sufficient number of means of individual protection, such as masks or protective suits. Even after 20 years, it has not completed the renewal of rotary sirens and has not launched a planned web portal for the public. Nor has it applied in practice the results of research, the output of which are, among other things, functional samples of means of individual protection. The number of permanent shelters in the Czech Republic has decreased by 32% since 2010. Legislative changes were supposed to help address this situation, but they have not yet been initiated by the MoI.
One of the key findings of the SAO is the fact that the MoI did not provide a legislatively set number of means of individual protection, such as masks, protective suits, children’s bags and other material for the protection of the population. The SAO revealed that since 2015 these funds have not been replenished due to austerity measures. In addition, the verification of the functionality of only 15.8% of the total number of protective equipment had been completed by the MoI by the end of the year 2022.
The MoI also fails to fulfil its tasks in the area of warning and informing the population and repeatedly extends its deadlines. For example, the replacement of rotary sirens with electronic ones is still yet to be completed, although the process has started in 2002. The deadline for replacement was extended by ten years by the MoI — from 2015 to 2025. According to the SAO’s findings, in 2020, the system used mainly rotary sirens, which, however, do not allow to supplement the warning signal with voice emergency information. Within the set deadline, the MoI also failed to resolve the sending of warning text messages. In Switzerland, for example, warning and information systems have been in place via a mobile app since 2018. Furthermore, the MoI did not launch a web portal that would ensure greater awareness of the population. The Czech Republic could, for example, draw inspiration from Sweden, where a brochure on the protection of the population is regularly distributed to all households.
In 2022, the SAO reviewed what the citizens of the Czech Republic knew about the protection of the population among pupils of the senior classes of secondary schools through a questionnaire survey. Out of a total of 46,922 responses, the level of knowledge was low in a number of areas of the protection of the population. A total of 80% of respondents did not know the location of a permanent shelter, 50% did not know how to act in a case of a leakage of chemicals, 45% did not know how to behave in a case of a leakage of radioactive substances, and 47% did not recognise individual types of warnings.
Furthermore, the SAO found that the legislation does not imply the responsibility of the MoI for providing shelters for the population, which is the responsibility of the municipal authorities. The MoI only records a steady decrease in the capacity of permanent shelters. Since 2010, their capacity has decreased by 32%. Permanent shelters remain in university hospitals in two towns only — two in Prague and one in Pilsen. The MoH spent money from the state budget only for the operation and maintenance of the shelter at the Thomayer University Hospital in Prague. Between 2015 and 2021, it was a total of CZK 57.2 million. In contrast to Sweden, the Czech Republic also does not have a national online map of available shelters. As the SAO’s audit showed, the Integrated Rescue System Act and its implementing decree do not reflect the current needs for the protection of the population in the area of improvised shelter. Legislative changes were intended to help address the situation since 2002, but the MoI has not yet initiated them.
The auditors also found that the MoI had not used some of the research results of the Institute for Population Protection in practice, although these were functional samples, e.g. protective hoods and clothing, a pulmonary ventilator, respiratory protective equipment, etc. However, the MoI spent a total of CZK 132.5 million on research projects. Also, some key tasks related to education have not been completed by the MoI. Although six teaching hours per year are devoted to teaching human protection in crisis situations in primary and secondary schools, the current state of education in this field cannot be considered satisfactory. The MoI itself notes that the majority of citizens is still not sufficiently informed and ready to respond properly to these situations. Finally, this was confirmed by SAO’s questionnaire survey.
Supreme Audit Office