In the run-up to the war, a Civil Defence network was established but the threat of bombing had not been fully appreciated until reports from the Spanish Civil War started to be published. When war was declared in September 1939 the various Civil Defence organisation received numerous volunteers, most numerous of whom were the civilian Air Raid Police (ARP) or as they were more commonly known 'Air Raid Wardens'. Amongst the duties of the ARP was to enforce the 'Blackout', which was intended to prevent streetlights, light from windows, etc. providing German night bombers with visual navigation aids. The lengths that people went to completely blackout their homes was another regular activity and one that that brought the civilian population into the war. Those who transgressed would hear the Warden's words 'Put that light out' and repeat offenders would find themselves in front of the local magistrates.
As a first response to the threat of bombing in the late summer of 1939, trenches were dug around schools and factories for children and workers to take cover during the confidently expected air raids. As the Phoney War lengthened into autumn and winter, however, proper air raid shelters were issued to the population to supplement the public and institutional shelters that were replacing trenches as places of shelter around the county.
Anderson Shelters were issued to householders in the more vulnerable areas such, as Parts of Weymouth. In much of Dorset, however, the population constructed 'refuge rooms' or when the bombers started to come in May 1940, took shelter under the stairs or in their cellars.
Morrison Shelters, rigid steel cages designed for use inside houses, were issued to families as civilian casualties mounted. They were a survival chamber for people, even if their house collapsed around them. Civil Defence workers and neighbours would then dig the survivors out of the rubble.
Public Shelters were built in streets and parks, and could hold up to one hundred people. While they were extensively used during the day and did much to promote a sense of share community, they were little used at night.