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The one goal of the Rescue Association – to save lives

The Rescue Association unites associations that are operating voluntarily within the field of rescue services in Estonia, regardless of their area of activity. Our ranks include those who engage in fire-fighting, dog rescues, rope rescues and maritime rescues, searching for missing people, prevention work and many other fields of rescue work.

The availability of the national rescue service is generally good, although it is too slow for the 121,000 Estonians who live in rural areas. Coming to the rescue in these areas, are the nearly 2000 volunteers in 119 land rescue brigades. At present, nearly one quarter of the calls we respond to are in rural areas; in most cases involving the sea, we are already the first responders.


For nearly a decade, the Rescue Association has been working to secure Estonia a place among those countries where accidents, lost lives and destroyed property are isolated incidents. Two years ago we set out our vision – to ensure that by 2025 the level of safety found in Estonia is equivalent to that of Scandinavia. In order to achieve this goal, volunteer land and maritime rescue brigades must be far more capable than they are at the present time.


To reach our goals, we will be more active when it comes to involving companies and citizens as supporters of voluntary rescuers; having them contribute their time, services, skills and money. Talking about the subject of money may be somewhat uncomfortable, but it is necessary in order for us to be able to meet our goals. This is the only way to increase the rescue capabilities of associations, while enhancing community safety and sustainability.


Volunteer rescue associations mostly receive their funding from two different sources. In some regions funds come from the local governments and the Rescue Board to cover the direct costs of each call-out. In addition, there are a number of associations that receive help from local companies.


It is common practice in Estonia, as it is elsewhere in Europe, that in cooperation with the state, volunteers are also making a greater contribution to ensuring domestic security. In the case of Estonia, it is obvious that the financing of volunteers to perform prevention work and maintain the readiness of associations is insufficient. The budget for volunteers in a sustainable rescue area is an average of EUR 43,000 per year for the functioning of a volunteer rescue brigade. The additional requirement for the period 2020–2023 is nearly EUR 21 million.


Volunteers are definitely not afraid of the increasing level of responsibility, it is a lack of financial resources that limits our capabilities. First and foremost, the problem is the battered equipment found in associations, brigade buildings that are in poor condition and – truth be told – our safety equipment, which isn’t always the most modern or adequate.


Raising the capabilities of voluntary rescue requires substantially greater investments, in regard to which the Rescue Association is not only awaiting state assistance, but also wishes Estonia to implement the standard found across Europe, in which voluntary rescuing is supported by the people and companies via donations, and by the local communities and governments.


With additional financial support, we can more effectively reduce the number of accidents, thereby saving more property and human lives. If someone feels the desire to support voluntary rescuers, you can find the opportunity to do so on our homepage or you can look up your closest voluntary rescuers and ask them how you could help. Volunteers who are members of the Rescue Association are active on the land and sea. 24/7. Voluntarily.

Joanna Lennard

Head of Sponsorship and Partnership