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Rescue Board: Estonians, businesses still lacking in fire safety awareness

Rescuers putting out a fire.
Rescuers putting out a fire. Source: Rescue Board

Estonian residents' fire safety knowledge is still inadequate, says the Rescue Board, but it isn't just a lack of smoke detectors in homes that is a problem – so is compliance with fire safety requirements among businesses.

The majority of industrial enterprises in Estonia are required to pay for fire safety inspections. Often these reveal, however, that one or another safety device is missing, or no one knows how to use them.

"Broadly speaking, I'd say that you can divide them into two camps," said Kalju Õunmann, fire safety specialist at the Estonian Safety and Training Center (EOKK). "Half are businesses that are aware they have to address fire safety and have even done so. And of the absolute opposite point of view are the other half of them – those same excuses: 'We've [never] had a fire,' 'We've never had an inspector visit,' 'Pointless issue.'"

Things are typically only rectified once an accident has already occurred somewhere.

Õunmann added that foreign companies' Estonian subsidiaries are typically in compliance, but the situation among domestic businesses can best be illustrated through company executives' own words:

"One business in Saaremaa: 'Are you trying to tell me that everyone else's is in order?'" he quoted. "A comment from a Southern Estonian timber business: 'Compliance with fire safety standards at our company is uneconomical.'"

According to the Rescue Board, the situation has improved over the years, however Estonian residents' fire safety knowledge is still lacking.

"What we're doing today, we may only see the fruits [of that labor] years from now," explained Lilleküla Rescue Brigade team leader Holger Enok. "We also teach young children, then see those same kids in school; they grow into adults, and we may see them again at training events somewhere. This is continuous work."

Home fire safety remains a problem as well. According to Margus Oberschneider, fire safety specialist at Tamrex, the Rescue Board's most recent awareness campaign promoting the necessity of smoke detectors was so effective that sales went up tenfold. It also marked the first such campaign that involved the threat of a fine.

"While typically some 500 [smoke] detectors were bought a month, then that month it was 5,000," Oberschneider said. "And that isn't just Tamrex; all our competitors, our distributors and so on have all said the same thing – [sales] everywhere absolutely soared. The problem is, since the campaign didn't mention anything about a carbon monoxide detector, then carbon monoxide detector sales didn't increase."

Despite being just two weeks into the new year, one person in Estonia has already died in a fire.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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