1st set of civil defense sirens arrives in Estonia

  • 2022-11-30
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The first set of civil defense warning sirens procured by Estonia has arrived and was tested by the Rescue Board in Tallinn's Manniku subdistrict on Wednesday.

The first set of sirens will be installed in Tallinn in December, spokespeople for the Rescue Board said.

In October, the information technology and development center of the Ministry of the Interior signed a contract for the purchase of a civil defense siren system with the Slovakian company Telegrafia. The first set of sirens has now arrived in Estonia and it was put to the test on Wednesday.

"Developing a siren system for the state was already recommended in a civil protection concept finalized in 2018 but no funding was made available for it at the time. The war in Ukraine has put things in a broader perspective because the enemy doesn't just attack military objects but also civilians and the infrastructure. The state must be capable of protecting its residents in the event of war or any other crisis. This spring, the Ministry of the Interior saw to it that the supplementary budget for national defense should include funding for hazard notification sirens. The government allocated 4.5 million euros for the creation of a network of warning sirens," Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets said.

"Military defense of the territory will not be enough -- the people of our country are what's most important. Therefore, it is crucial that a public agreement be reached that we will permanently invest 0.5 percent of our GDP to civil protection each year. Compared with our military defense budget of nearly one billion euros, it is a small yet crucial investment that will enable us to ensure security and protection for our people and preparedness and coping during crises," he said.

The Rescue Board began developing a country-wide network of sirens this spring. The goal is to develop a system that can be set off centrally and that enables to reach as many residents as possible. This is the largest investment in civil protection in the past 30 years.

The state uses various channels and means for hazard notification, enabling to warn as many people as possible.

"The network of sirens is just one part of the hazard notification system. In addition, mass media, public agencies' websites and social media channels, text messages to mobile phones and, if necessary, loudspeakers and door-to-door notification are also used," director general of the Rescue Board Kuno Tammearu said.

The network of sirens will be installed in 22 settlements -- Tallinn and its densely populated surroundings, Tartu, Narva, Parnu, Voru, Paldiski, Sillamae, Tapa, Johvi, Kohtla-Jarve, Maardu (including Muuga), Rakvere, Valga, Keila, Viljandi, Jogeva, Polva, Rapla, Kardla, Kuressaare, Haapsalu and Paide. The plan is to also extend the network to all large towns in the future.

"The installation and choice of location for the sirens is guided by the principle that the alarm signal should be heard as far as possible. Thus, the preferred locations are on existing high structures, such as communication masts, chimneys and so on. Simultaneously with the process of procuring the sirens, we're conducting negotiations with the owners of the buildings and structures on which we want to install siren systems," Tammearu said.

"The situations in the case of which notifications are to be communicated via the sirens are major accidents, emergencies, such as radiation accidents and accidents involving hazardous chemicals, but they can be also used in the event of a military threat. The sirens will be used if there is a direct threat on people's lives. In such a situation, people need to behave in a concrete and well-informed manner -- take cover indoors at the earliest opportunity, seek additional information and follow the instructions received," Tammearu said.

More detailed instructions on how to behave upon hearing a hazard siren will be introduced to the public next year.

The Center for Information Technology and Development (SMIT) of the Estonian Ministry of the Interior is responsible for creating the technological means for the sirens network.

The first devices are planned to be installed at the end of 2022 and the sirens in 22 settlements across the country will be installed in 2023.