The Rescue Board Before the War and During the War
Estonia has chosen the right path in developing comprehensive national defence, and the rescue network as an essential part of it must be ready for any crisis, including war.
The war in Ukraine set in motion the processes and called into focus the activities that have been a priority for the Rescue Board for a long time. Concept of civilian protection that defined and explained the nature and needs of the protection of civilian population was drafted already in 2018. Necessary activities are also set out in both the previous and the current National Defence Development Plans but have not been funded until now.
The basis for the protection of civilian population is a rescue network that works in all situations, the ability of people to cope with crises, and the capability of local governments and other authorities to perform their tasks and help people in crises. We have been promoting crisis management and cooperation with local governments for many years and the system is strong.
Ukraine’s experience shows that in war, the rescuer is on the battlefield with the soldier, although their activities are different. The Rescue Board as an authority for the protection of civilians has set as its priorities, among other things, raising awareness among the population about preparedness and behaviour in the event of war, preparing of evacuation sites, mapping and marking public shelters, and ensuring continuity and supplies for rescue operations. Co-operation between the rescue services and the Defence Forces is also of key importance, as soldiers must be able to fight while the people of Estonia are protected.
In addition to the lessons from Ukraine, we can also learn from our northern neighbours. Finland has been systemically preparing already from World War II. The availability of food and medical supplies, the condition of shelters and evacuation sites to protect people, and much more has been considered. Lithuania gives detailed crisis information to its people. At the same time, studies both in Estonia and in Lithuania have shown that preparedness depends on several aspects.
The Rescue Board has formulated four components that ensure comprehensive preparedness for various crises:
- people must have supplies for 7 days and make arrangements with their close ones;
- communities (apartment associations and neighbourhoods) must be prepared and ready to help those who are weaker;
- local governments must be aware of risks and have risk communication, plans, training and crisis structures;
- state is responsible for crisis management, cooperation and ensuring of continuity.
The Rescue Board supports local governments with risk assessments and contributes to the preparedness of an integrated rescue network – both before a crisis and during a crisis. Strong regional network is of key importance.
For the civilian protection to function, it is necessary to keep the basic infrastructure for conducting rescue activities in order and make plans for coping during crises. Allocations of funds for developing comprehensive national defence are significant and essential. Preparation for war and creation of the systems helps resolve also other threats. Comprehensive national defence means that the whole country (incl. the politicians) has a common understanding of activities and their financing. At the Rescue Board, we like to say that we are successful when everyone does their part … and a little bit more.