The National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) discussed the issues relating to population protection during civilian and military crises.
Chairman of the National Defence Committee Hannes Hanso thinks that Estonia has been preparing for civilian crises, and generally it is possible to be satisfied with it, but there are capability gaps in readiness for war situation. “It is extremely important that this topic is intensely dealt with,” Hanso said. “We have to admit to ourselves honestly that if there are shortcomings, it is necessary to overcome them.”
In Hanso’s opinion, broad-basedness is the greatest challenge, which has to include defining the role of local governments and financing of possible additional tasks in ensuring the protection of population.
The Chairman of the Committee said that it was necessary to increase the awareness of people. “Changing the way of thinking is important here,” Hanso emphasised. “We have to understand that each agency and each person has its role in broad-based national defence, and creating a systematic awareness in these issues is the greatest challenge. Everybody should know what to do in a crisis. Today it is not yet the case.”
Hanso said that this applied to informing the population of crises, potential evacuation and supplying with, for example, medicines, fuel, and food. These issues have to be discussed step-by-step, planning the activities for a long-term period.
Member of the Committee Ants Laaneots said according to the latest data population protection was inadequate and the people were little informed. The systems that were used earlier have fallen apart and new ones have not been established yet. He considered it necessary to build shelters under each house, like in Switzerland, and gave an example of Helsinki, where there were shelters for the whole population of the city, or a million people.
Deputy Secretary General for Rescue Policy and Crisis Management at the Ministry of the Interior Hannes Kont, Head of the Population Protection Task Force at the Government Office Margo Klaos and Director of the Strategy Unit of the Government Office Henry Kattago gave the National Defence Committee an overview of the population protection during crises and the work of the Task Force. The Committee will continue with the topic in the new year, when the Task Force has prepared a report giving specific recommendations for further activities.
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