Rescuer turnout time requirement relaxed for lower risk level calls ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

A rescuer in turnout gear participating in a rescue exercise.
A rescuer in turnout gear participating in a rescue exercise. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Beginning Tuesday, rescue crews will have not one but three minutes to turn out in response to lower risk level emergency calls. The goal behind increasing the maximum allowed turnout time is to reduce the number of work accidents and crashes as as rescuers race to respond to calls.

Until now, a variable, risk level-based response system has been used first and foremost by paramedics and the police, but starting Tuesday, an analogous approach will be adopted for responses to rescue and bomb squad situations.

Estonia's emergency call center will start classifying calls as either low or high risk events. Low risk events first and foremost include situations where nobody's life is in immediate danger and the situation isn't likely to escalate, such as bird and animal rescue calls, or fallen trees not putting anyone in immediate danger. This change is expected to affect as many as nearly 20 percent of all emergency calls.

Until now, rescue crews were required to turn out within 60 seconds of receiving an alert, regardless of the type or risk level of the call. Starting Tuesday, the call center will also indicate in its alert whether the call is a high or low risk level call, according to which crews are to turn out within one or three minutes, respectively.

"Rescue work is complicated and dangerous, and we have to take into consideration that crashes can occur as we race toward a scene," said Leho Lemsalu, head of the Rescue Board's Readiness Division. "What is most important, however, is that our rescuers are okay, always reach the scene and don't put themselves or fellow road users into too much danger. Statistics and practice have shown that the risk incurred by speeding is justified in certain cases."

Lemsalu added that in the case of calls where someone's life is in danger or other time-sensitive situations, rescuers will continue to turn out in the span of no more than 60 seconds, responding with sirens and lights.

In cases where someone's life is in danger, rescue crews respond according to the fastest aid principle, under which a special program instantly calculates where the incident is located, what category of assistance is needed there, where the closest available resource is located, and what the route is from the location of the resources to the scene. Rescue crews and their availability are tracked in real time.

Generally speaking, throughout Estonia, the Rescue Board is capable of ensuring a response time by at least the first emergency response vehicle of no more than 15 minutes.

In 2019, rescuers were involved in 52 work accidents, ten of which were serious. Six work accidents were related to emergency responses. The Rescue Board's emergency vehicle fleet includes approximately 500 vehicles, an average of which 15 per year are involved in crashes.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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