The Ministry of the Interior has proposed the creation of a fund to help Estonia prepare for serious crises. Secretary General Lauri Lugna says that the proposal does not mean the ministry is expecting a particular crisis but admits that the likelihood of emergencies is growing, and Estonia should be better prepared.
Director of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Elmar Vaher said that the dwindling number of police officers means Estonia will soon find itself in a crisis. Where is crisis preparedness the weakest right now?
As a small country, our resources are limited. The question is whether we should cannel those limited resources into meeting everyday needs – updated weaponry, medical equipment, better pay for policemen and rescue workers – or whether we should use it to bolster our crisis readiness.
We are talking about the need for a separate crisis fund of around €25 million that would be there for all public and private sector institutions to ensure availability of motor fuel, electricity and cell coverage and for hospitals to remain operational in crisis situations. The idea is to remove the dilemma where you have to split resources between everyday operations and crisis preparedness.
It would be more sensible to have a separate fund strictly for crises.
What would these millions be spent on?
On the one hand, we have not used taxes to stockpile generators, blankets and pillows, medical supplies, equipment. I’m talking about hundreds of thousands of units because a major crisis requires a lot of things.
On the other, we have not required mobile network or power transmission network operators to maintain reserve capacity. For example, what happens in gas stations in case of a power outage? The answer is that Estonia has relatively few stations that can use generators to power pumps.
How to heat houses in case of a district heating disruption? We need to think about that, waste water systems and communications. It will take years to prepare these things. And the fund in question would first and foremost address power as that is what everything else depends on.
You will not be building shelters for the money?
We are currently analyzing what to do about shelters. It exists as a political choice on the level of the Government Office, but it costs money. We are in the process of specifying just how much.
There are three options: to build separate shelters in certain locations, introduce mandatory safety coefficients for new buildings or designate existing buildings capable of withstanding collapse to an extent.
Talking about basic needs, does this mean we are preparing for war?
We will not prepare for war with €25 million. In a situation where vital systems are increasingly dependent on technology, we need to create surplus and emergency reserve capacity in our systems. All these investments would be necessary for peacetime failures.
We also need to keep climate in mind. Experts say that extreme weather is likely to become more common inside the next decade. We might see more rapidly changing temperatures and power outages. We might also see major snowfall and storms that wreak havoc on forests and disrupt transport. Those kinds of things will only become more frequent in the future.
What other types of crises are likely in Estonia?
I have two concerns. One is mental health. The reason is very simple: overabundance of information is contributing to depression among children and youths who are taking drugs. We are also not seeing a decline in the suicide rate.
The second problem is cybercrime – we are seeing a clear increase. The number of people capable of perpetrating cybercrime is growing. We are seeing new generations with the necessary skills.