The NAO: people and the state should contribute more to the prevention of fire

Toomas Mattson | 5/2/2006 | 12:00 AM

Text size: [-A] [+A]

Language: EST | RUS | ENG


TALLINN, 2 May 2006 - The NAO recommends the government and, particularly, all residents of Estonia to contribute more to the prevention of fire and fire deaths, as, according to the relative number of fires and persons killed by fire, Estonia occupies almost the worst position among the other member states in the EU.

In 2005, the total number of fires reached 10,614 in Estonia. About 9.9 persons per 100,000 residents were killed by fire last year in Estonia, in Finland only 1.5 or six times less. There were 2.5 fires per one thousand residents in Finland, in Estonia 7.9 or three times more. For comparison: in Latvia 3.8 and in Lithuania 4.4 fires per one thousand residents. About 10.2 persons per 100,000 residents in Latvia and 8.4 persons in Lithuania were killed by fire.

More than 700 persons have been killed by fire in Estonia during last five years. Compared to the persons killed in traffic accidents, the number of is almost the same.

While making comments on the results of the audit recently sent to the Parliament, the Audit Leader of the NAO, Mr. Juhani Lemmik has noted that the state is confronted with difficulties in achieving decrease of fires and fire deaths, because of purposelessness and in-co-ordination of efforts. “It is a matter of regret that so little has been done to increase fire safety of buildings, prevent fires and change negligence of residents” asserted Mr. Lemmik. “The enormous number of wild-land fires during the last weeks also shows general irresponsibility and foolishness of people, although wild-land arson is illegal.”

In its audit report, the NAO stated that prevention measures that have turned out to be successful in other countries are not adequately implemented in Estonia. No fire safety campaigns are organized in Estonia. Schools do not provide enough knowledge about prevention of fire in daily life. The Rescue Board considers it important to establish co-operation networks between state rescue service agencies, other institutions and non-profit organizations, but in reality the network functioned only in the State Rescue Service Agency of Järvamaa.

The NAO recognizes the work of the Rescue Board concerning the campaign “Nublu protects and teaches” which is aimed at improvement of fire safety awareness of children and their parents.

According to the assessment of the NAO, supervision of fire safety measures in buildings is actually missing and contribution to the fire safety awareness of people is insufficient, although more than 80 % of fire deaths take place in habitation areas. Mr. Lemmik is of the opinion that it is vital to combat the reasons of fire in addition to consequences of fire or to achieve a situation where there are substantially less fires.

More than 80 % of incidents are caused by negligence. “People need to understand that they have to learn to prevent fire themselves and to act in conformity with safety requirements, as rescue of people and property is not possible, because in first 3-4 minutes a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire", stated Mr. Juhani Lemmik. Negligence in cooking is the leading cause of home fires, followed by handling of open fire, smoking and utilization of heaters. Alcohol abuse combined with smoking in bed is one of the greatest risk factors of fire ever.

It was indicated in the inquiry arranged by the NAO that fire safety awareness of people is low: about 52 % of respondents do not protect their home with smoke alarms, fire sprinklers, fire blankets or fireproof doors. A simple and cheap rescuer – smoke alarm – has only been installed in 19 % of homes. For comparison: in Finland, smoke alarms have been installed in 98 % of homes.

In Estonia, the requirement to install a smoke alarm in the existing habitation areas will become effective 1 July 2009. The NAO made a proposal to move this deadline to the beginning of 2007 which will prevent a great number of fire deaths. The Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications charged the Government with a proposal to make installation of smoke alarms in habitation areas obligatory already from next year. Likewise, the NAO made a proposal to make utilization of fire sprinklers obligatory in new habitation areas.

The NAO highlights the experience of the State Rescue Service Agency of Järvamaa which has substantially better results in fire prevention for the same amount of money assigned from the state budget than the other state rescue service agencies. The NAO is of the opinion that devotion of the management, readiness to implement new methods and active co-operation partners are important factors. The experience of Järvamaa shows that there is a strong positive connection between better awareness of people and active prevention of state rescue service agencies.

The NAO made a proposal that the Minister of Internal Affairs should develop a plan about how much and by which time the number of home fires and deaths will decrease. The other important proposal concerns state supervision over fire safety requirements (e.g. installation of smoke alarm) in habitation areas and, where appropriate, to apply substitutive enforcement (e.g. installation of smoke alarm by state rescue service agencies) or coercive measures. The NAO is of the opinion that the above mentioned measures shall ensure actual implementation of fire safety requirements.

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900
E-mail: [email protected]

  • Posted: 5/2/2006 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 9/18/2015 2:08 PM
  • Last Review: 9/18/2015 2:08 PM

More News