State-of-the art Pärnu early warning system dismantled over a decade ago

Former Pärnu mayor Mart Viisitamm
Former Pärnu mayor Mart Viisitamm Source: Private collection.

An early warning system installed in the southwestern city of Pärnu in 2008 was subsequently dismantled, as the result of political infighting. The sirens were intended for a range of warnings, including natural disasters and chemical incidents.

The system, put in place when Mart Viisitamm (Center) was mayor, was removed under Viisitamm's successor, Toomas Kivimägi.

Ivar Kaldasaun, director of the Western Estonian rescue center criticized this development at the time, telling evening paper Õhtuleht in December 2011 that: "Unfortunately, this system got caught up in the middle of political infighting and has received a lot of unjustified and inappropriate criticism as a result.

"Initially, a very amenable agreement was reached regarding funding, but due to the election promises from the electoral alliance that won the last local elections (headed up by Kivimägi – ed.), the incoming city government canceled the previous agreements," he went on.

The system, dubbed PAUH for short (Pärnu autonoomse hoiatussüsteem), would have cost the city 130,000 Estonian Kroons, the currency until January 2011 (a little over €8,300) per year to maintain, and had cost 2.4 million Kroons (a little under €153,400) to install, ERR reports.

Cost savings had been the main rationale for its removal.

Viisitamm, in office 2005-2009, says so far as he recalls, PAUH was proposed by his predecessor, Ahti Kõo, of the Res Publica party (a forerunner to Isamaa), during coalition negotiations following the 2005 local elections, while deputy mayor Simmo Saare was tasked with overseeing the system, and also the creation of a local, municipal police force.

Saar took the responsibility seriously, ERR reports, and by March 2008 there were early-warning loudspeakers installed on the roofs of three schools, the Hansaport business and a rehab center, while testing took place in April.

The PAUH system also provided for an SMS (text message) to be sent (the idea was still at its preparatory stage when PAUH was scrapped) to members of the public, as well as for warnings to be issued via ERR radio station Vikerraadio.

Saar told a local daily that PAUH was a first for Estonia, though such systems existed in some other countries, including Denmark, Finland and the Czech Republic, as well as the U.S., and would be applicable in floods – such as one experienced in the coastal town in 2005, large conflagrations, explosions, major transport incidents, chemical disasters, danger of radiation and many other scenarios which would threaten large numbers of local residents.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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