Minister Räsänen: Finland's outstanding emergency services
This spring the European Emergency Number Association, EENA, rewarded Finland for its outstanding national 112 system. The award means that Finland currently has the best emergency services system in Europe. What made the award even more special was that emergency services organisations from across Europe voted in this competition.
Finnish emergency response centres are in a league of their own. Response times for emergency calls have been excellent for years. Finland is one of the top countries in Europe for awareness raising, with 96 per cent of the population knowing the 112 number; the European 112 Day, now marked across Europe, is originally a Finnish idea.
Our 112 service has gone through major changes over the last ten years. Operational statistical data and practical experience have informed improvements to the service, new guidance has been issued and our technology has been brought bang up to date. We have worked closely with the different authorities involved in emergency response. The overall structure of the Emergency Response Centre Administration has been overhauled to better meet the operational challenges of today's world. The purpose of the present restructuring is to harmonise emergency response centre operations and improve their efficiency, maintain the coverage and quality of services throughout the country, ensure those in need get help as quickly as possible, and improve cooperation throughout the chain of actors providing the 112 service.
Finland's strength lies in the fact that the police, rescue services and social and health services have a single joint emergency response centre system and one common emergency number 112. This way people do not need to guess what number to call in an emergency. We in Finland take this 112 service for granted but the same cannot yet be said for everywhere else in Europe.
In Finland, emergency response centre operators help callers in both national languages — Finnish and Swedish — but also provide service in English. Where necessary, the Emergency Response Centre Administration uses interpreting services when handling emergency calls.
A number of other countries are carrying out similar overhauls. According to a report presented to the Swedish Government in April 2013, the model proposed for delivering emergency services there very much resembles the Finnish one. Following the tragic events in summer 2011, Norway realised that its fragmented emergency service system presents problems with communication and command.
There seem to be a lot of misunderstandings and unnecessary concerns about the emergency response centre reform in Finland. People fear that as the number of emergency response centres is reduced, it will take longer for ambulances or police patrols to arrive on the scene. This will not be the case. Even if an emergency response centre is to be relocated, the facilities of the authorities providing the actual emergency services — such as the police, rescue and ambulance services — will not move. In terms of safety, the most important thing is that emergency response centres have a sufficient number of personnel, operators are highly professional and centres have an efficient information system in place. This is what the current reform aims to do.