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National Contingency Planning – Finland

GENERAL

Obligations of organisations, institutes and privately-owned companies to prepare for emergencies are provided in Acts and Degrees. According to them contingency planning is an essential part of preparatory work. Instead of comprising nation-wide arrangements, contingency plans include practical details of leadership and how to combat an individual emergency. The focus of this summary is on describing authorities and their statutory tasks.

As regards EPPR-related preparedness and response, two lines of administration play key roles. On one hand the General Rescue Services, consisting of municipal fire brigades under the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior, have a comprehensive responsibility for all kinds of accidents and disasters. On the other hand the Environmental Administration, led by the Ministry of the Environment, has the necessary expertise of harmful chemicals and their effects on nature, and is therefore responsible for organising the leadership in case of oil spills and releases of harmful chemicals in the sea. A leading principle in any case is that authorities provide assistance according to their possibilities determined by their equipment, manpower, and other resources.

THE GENERAL RESCUE SERVICES

The General Rescue Services are responsible for the prevention of fires and other accidents and for the emergency measures to be taken in the event of accidents. The goal is to protect and rescue people, property and the environment, to limit the damage and to mitigate the consequences. Tasks of the rescue services consist primarily of fire fighting, combating industrial disasters, and providing relief in case of traffic accidents, land-based oil spills and releases of hazardous material.

Rescue services must be planned and arranged so that the measures may be taken efficiently and without delay. The service level of the rescue services must correspond to the accident threats present in the municipality. The municipality’s duty is to assess the threats present in its area and determine the service level of its fire brigade according to the threats.

The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for the nation-wide rescue-service preparations and arrangements as well as for the co-ordination of the tasks of rescue services belonging to the spheres of operation of different ministries. The Ministry directs rescue services as well as supervises their availability and level.

The State Provincial Offices are responsible for the above mentioned tasks in the area of the province. There are six provinces in Finland. The State Provincial Offices also supervise that the service level of the municipal rescue services complies with the provisions and orders.

Municipal fire brigades have a general responsibility for all kinds of land-based accidents and disasters. The municipalities have each a fire brigade and a full-time chief fire officer. Most of the fire brigades are municipal or voluntary. A voluntary or for instance an industrial fire brigade may conclude a contract with the municipality. Municipalities are encouraged to intensify their rescue-service tasks by co-operation. Municipal fire brigades co-ordinate the rescue service tasks belonging to the different authorities and other parties participating in these services, attend to fire inspections and other prevention of accidents and even maintain civil-defence readiness.

The State may assist municipalities and participate in the maintenance of readiness necessary for the rescue services by acquiring special equipment or by financing operations, where financing from State funds is deemed appropriate for a special reason.

For more information about rescue services in Finland: http://www.intermin.fi/sm/pelastus/esite/esite_eng/index.html

Tasks of other authorities related to the general rescue services

In addition to the rescue authorities

  • the police,
  • the Frontier Guard,
  • the Defence Forces,
  • social and health authorities,
  • authorities and institutions in charge of agriculture and forestry,
  • environmental authorities,
  • authorities in charge of passenger and goods transport and communications,
  • agencies and institutions in charge of radiation and nuclear safety and weather services are obliged to participate in rescue activities and civil defence as provided for on their tasks in the relevant provisions.

The Frontier Guard participates in rescue activities especially when helicopters or other aircraft is needed. This is mainly in case of forest fires or other major accidents or when airborne ambulance services are necessary in isolated and/or remote areas. The Coast Guard, belonging to the Frontier Guard organisation, takes the key role in open sea rescue interventions, whether it is a question about

The Defence Forces participate in rescue activities by providing equipment, manpower and special expert services necessary for rescue activities where this is deemed necessary with regard to the extent and special nature of the accident.

The Forest and Park Service is liable to provide the rescue authorities with expert assistance in the fighting of forest fires.

The Ministry of the Environment and its countrywide environmental administration is responsible for environmental protection. Environmental authorities provide rescue operators expertise concerning oil and other harmful material in case of spills or releases. More information about the tasks of the Ministry of the Environment follows below.

Finnish Environment Institute operates subordinate to the Ministry of the Environment. The Institute has research facilities and in combating chemical releases at sea it takes the general command over rescue units. Vessels utilised in these situations are mainly operated by the Frontier Guard, the Defence Forces or municipalities. More information about the tasks of the Institute follows below.

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), subordinate to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, gives safety assessments and recommendations for the prevention of harmful effects of radiation. STUK draws up an overview of the radiation situation and assesses harmful effects regarding safety of the population and the environment. In addition, STUK is responsible for assistance relating to radiation expertise. STUK disseminates information about the situation to domestic and foreign counterparts and to the media.

Depending on the extent hazard situation, decisions concerning operations are made by the rescue authorities on the municipal, provincial or ministerial level. Special measures required by the situation are decided by the relevant administrative sectors (social affairs and health for instance). The rescue authority will be the general supervisor of the situation co-ordinating co-operation between the various authorities.

Volunteer activities

The rescue authorities may delegate training, advice and information tasks to organisations operating in the field of rescue services. Voluntary people and organisations may be used to assist in rescue services’ tasks, however, not in tasks involving significant exercise of public authority.

Self-preparedness

The owner or holder of a building, an industrial or commercial entrepreneur, an agency, institution or other organisation is liable to prepare to protect people and property in their premises as well as the environment in danger situations. The liability includes preparing rescue measures which they can take at their own initiative.

The owner or holder of a building, an industrial or commercial entrepreneur, an agency, institution or other organisation running operations which may particularly endanger people, property or the environment, draws up a contingency plan on the necessary measures provided for in detail in a Degree and ministerial orders.

Planning obligation

The rescue authorities as well as the other authorities and organisations responsible for tasks belonging to rescue services or for executive assistance tasks are liable to draw up the necessary emergency plans in co-operation with each other.

Municipalities with a nuclear plant or a plant causing a danger of a major accident must draw up an emergency plan for an accident taking place in the plant. The population exposed to the danger must be heard when drawing up the plan and informed thereof.

The Ministry of the Interior may order that appropriate fire-extinguishing equipment and other equipment facilitating rescue activities be acquired to premises where the operations carried out or the circumstances cause an unusually great danger to fire safety or personal safety or to the environment. The Ministry may also order that other preventive measures necessary for the protection of people and property in case of an accident are taken in the said objects. The municipal rescue authority may issue a corresponding order to an individual object.

TASKS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL ADMINISTRATION

National organisation in Finland

The Finnish Ministry of the Environment (ME) has the supreme responsibility for the management and supervision of the oil pollution response. The Finnish Environment Institute (FEI), operating under the Ministry, is the competent state oil pollution combating authority. It is in charge of measures against pollution incidents at open waters and whenever severity of an incident so necessitates. The Institute is also the nationally appointed competent authority, which is empowered to request and give international assistance in combating marine pollution caused by oil or other harmful substances. Other authorities are obliged to assist oil combating within their abilities. Each municipality shall in its own area take care of oil pollution preparedness and response. Besides the owners of different kind of facilities handling big amounts of oil must have a limited oil combating ability of their own.

Combating responsibilities

The Finnish Environment Institute, a Response Commander (RC) nominated for the purpose by the Institute and under him an On-Scene Commander (OSC) lead combating activities on open sea, in public fair ways and also in other areas if the spill is of such magnitude that the local authorities are not reasonably able to cope with it.

Each municipality is responsible for arranging combating oil spills in its sea and land area and must have a plan for it. The municipality’s Response Commander (usually the chief fire officer) leads an oil combating action. If a spill is a concern of several municipalities, the regional chief fire officer may take the position of the Response Commander for all action and co-ordinate joint efforts of municipalities and regional state authorities. In large terrestrial spill situations as well as in beach cleaning combating action may also be led by the Regional Environment Centre.

Different organisations are liable to assist the Finnish Environment Institute and other above mentioned oil pollution combating authorities on request. These organisations include: state authorities like the Finnish Maritime Administration, the Coast Guard, the Defence Forces (especially the Navy), the Institute of Marine Research and local oil combating organisations. Private companies, like salvage companies, are also liable to assist with resources at their disposal. There is a special regional contingency plan made for each of the five coastal areas and for the inland watercourse area. The Ministry of Environment confirms such a plan after acquiring the opinion of the FEI about it.

For more information: http://www.vyh.fi/eng/intcoop/regional/response/prevent.htm