Southwest Finland Emergency Services/University of Turku

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Rescue services in Finland are organized by fire departments. These rescue authorities are responsible for putting effective measures in place to prevent accidents from happening and reducing the number of casualties substantially. The rescue services maintain a framework that allows individuals, communities and authorities to prevent accidents and mitigate the consequences of those that do happen, no matter where they occur. The Ministry’s Department for Rescue Services directs, steers and supervises rescue services and maintains oversight of their coverage and quality. Regional state administrative agencies oversee rescue services and their coverage and quality within their own areas. Municipalities are jointly responsible for rescue services in rescue service regions.

There is a separate Fire Protection Fund (outside of the State Budget), managed and supervised by the Ministry of the Interior. Every year, the fund grants nearly 10 million EUR for projects that are designed to improve fire prevention and rescue operations. This assistance has focused on training and education provided by rescue service organisations, research and development projects supporting the work in the field, procurement of equipment and building of fire stations. Total annual costs are 340 million EUR for all regions and 64 EUR per resident. Every year, rescue brigades in Finland are called out to extinguish about 15 000 fires. The number of fire deaths has been stable on the low level of about 1.5 fire fatalities per 100,000 population (see Figure 1).

Southwest Finland (Varsinais-Suomi) Emergency Services (SWFES) is one of the 22 fire departments, which carry out rescue service duties in their region. The fire departments have their own programs for children, elderly, and other defined groups. It is expected that the number of fire departments will be decreased to 18 due to reorganizational reform in 2018-19. In 2016, SWFES had 474 full-time personnel and additionally 1 924 contracted personnel, so it is a rather bigger fire department in Finland. The number of rescue operations has been stable in the 2012-2016 period, being 8 329 operations in 2016 (third biggest number of operations among fire departments).

Figure 1. The number of fire deaths per 100,000 population in Finland

Rescue Service in Finland performs three types of fire prevention activities: informing, teaching, and counselling.

Informing. In Finland, there are region-wide and nation-wide campaigns. All activities are held once a year.

The main region-wide campaign is §42 Seminar, which is a one day fire event for social services and the elderly care personnel. The event is held to support those who work in the sphere of residential care for vulnerable groups of population (mostly social services and elderly care) with a need for fire safety skills. §42 Seminar usually involves 150 participants.

The Southwest Finland Emergency Service carries out also various nation-wide campaigns, focusing on informing people and promoting safe behavior. One of them is the 112 Emergency number day, held on the 11th of February. This day promotes the European Emergency number 112; the program contains practical demonstrations by fire, ambulance, and police services and includes 3 000 people. There is no special budget allocated for this activity. Some deliverables are produced by the Finnish National Rescue Association.

The Fire station day is organized every year. Stations with professional rescuers, as well as stations with voluntary rescuers, open their doors to visitors, who can participate in the special fire safety program, aimed at raising awareness of fire risks and educating on the ways to mitigate them. This event usually attracts about 5 000 visitors annually. There is no special budget for this activity. A small sum of money is allocated for the deliverables.

In addition to that, a Fire Safety Week (26.11–01.12) aiming at encouraging the population to improve fire safety and fire safety skills by generating a fire safety debate in the society, campaign “FireStop” which targets young people and the dangers of being struck by a lightning, and the Accident Day (Friday the 13th) for preventing accidents and injuries are essential elements of informing prevention activities maintained by the Southwest Finland Emergency Service.

Teaching. There is one region-wide activity and one nation-wide teaching prevention activity held in Finland (which also applies to the Southwest region).

At the regional level, there is a special training for 2nd graders in the form of a fire safety lesson, that takes place once a year. The lesson is held by professional firefighters working in the shift and includes information on the emergency number, escape strategies in the case of emergency, correct responses in the case of fire, and checking the fire detector. The focus of the activity lies on the 8–year-olds, and their homes. This activity usually reaches around 3 500 pupils (about 70% of the respective age group) and 115 schools (more than half of all schools in SWF).

Nation-wide activity “No panic!” is a campaign, accompanied by thematic competitions for 8th graders. Fire safety materials are produced for upper elementary school level purposes, published on the web page, available for free use. Some schools voluntarily submit their applications to the competition. The fire education contains web-based study materials, and, if needed, some practical training. This event is held once per year and reaches around 200–500 students.

Counselling. Southwest Finland Emergency Service provides counselling to teachers.

The counselling activity is aimed at early intervention and support for teachers responsible for safety management at schools. Identified teachers are informed and advised about fire, police and traffic safety. This counselling activity is held twice a year and targets 60–70 teachers.

Table 1. Prevention activities.

Type of activity




§ 42 Seminar

Supporting those who work in residential care with vulnerable groups.

A day at the fire station

Informing on the rescuers’ activities and functions.

112 Emergency number day

Promotion of the European Emergency number 112.


Prevention of lightning accidents

Accident day Friday the 13th.

Promotion of prevention of accidents and injuries.


Fire safety lessons for 2nd grades

Educating on the emergency number, escaping in case of emergency, strategies of fire response, checking the fire detector.

No panic! Campaign and competition for 8th graders

Teaching prevention and action competence for 8th grade students in comprehensive schools.


Early intervention and support activity for teachers responsible for safety management at schools

Counselling teachers on how to behave in case of fire.