Preparation for emergencies requires real action to be taken

Toomas Mattson | 6/21/2018 | 9:46 AM

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TALLINN, 20 June 2018 – The National Audit Office is of the opinion that preparation for emergencies that threaten internal security is not being systematically ensured in the state. A great deal of working time is being spent analysing the risk of events that threaten internal security, but measures to mitigate these risks are not being systematically implemented. Agencies responsible for dealing with emergencies therefore lack information regarding which risks have been mitigated and which have not.

The audit indicates that neither hospitals nor the ambulance service would be capable of providing emergency aid services in the event of a crisis of longer duration since they depend on electricity, heating, water, etc., the making of investments for the autonomous guaranteeing of which is unfeasibly costly for each agency separately.

The National Audit Office focussed on the process of analysing and mitigating emergency risks in the example of the following events: mass unrest, sudden attack, hostage-taking, wide-ranging cyber incident, fire, explosion or structural collapse as a result of which many people are injured. These are all events which could stem from the malicious actions of one person or group and which could threaten the internal security of the state.

“We’re all aware that conflicts around the world don’t start with someone declaring war but with something more hidden – with events that threaten internal security,” said audit manager Meelis Peerna. “In that scenario it’s clear when we talk about broad-based national defence that events that threaten internal security shouldn’t be treated any differently from national defence itself.”

The audit revealed that in reality agencies largely operate independently, with little knowledge of one another’s activities, which is why work tends to be duplicated unnecessarily and broad-based national defence suffers as a result.

Main observations of audit:

A great deal of working time is spent analysing the risk of events that threaten internal security, but effective use is not being made of the results of such work to mitigate these risks. Risk analysis takes place as two parallel processes: a) an assessment of risks that threaten national security and constitutional order is conducted on the basis of the National Defence and Security Authorities Acts as input for the development plan for national security; and b) analysis is carried out of emergency risks that threaten internal security on the basis of the Emergency Act.

The risks identified in the two independent risk analyses are similar, but the objectives set for their mitigation are sometimes different and the measures are not always linked to critical power vacuums. In summary, working time is being duplicated to identify similar risks, but emergency risk analyses often go unused as input in the planning of the operations of agencies.

Agencies tasked with dealing with emergencies do not know whether or to what extent steps are taken in other agencies or even in their own agency to mitigate the risks identified in risk analyses.

Agencies leading and involved in the resolution of emergency situations lack a complete overview of how the measures provided in risk analyses are implemented for the prevention of emergencies or the alleviation of their consequences.

The organisation of crisis training does not ensure that people learn from the conclusions drawn in the course of the training. In practice this also means that mistakes tend to be repeated in such training, since the shortcomings which are identified are never allocated to anyone as tasks to be resolved.

Among the health care agencies providing emergency care (hospitals and the ambulance service) are those which would be incapable of independently providing their service for a sufficient period of time in a crisis situation. The provision of emergency care by hospitals and the ambulance service depends on other vital services (electricity, heating, water, etc.) that a number of health care institutions do not have the capability to themselves guarantee to a sufficient extent over a longer period. Shortcomings in the independent ability of vital service providers to ensure their effective functioning have been known to the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Health Board, the Ministry of the Interior and other organisers of the provision of vital services. The Government of the Republic has decided that the Ministry of Social Affairs must resolve this problem by 2020, but it is not clear how this should be funded or how costs should be divided.

It is positive that the Emergency Act, which entered forced a year ago, is being implemented stage by stage, that a number of implementing acts are being drafted and that the ministries and other agencies involved in the audit do not deny the existence of the problem.

Please note: Access restrictions have been established on the full text of the audit report, which is designed for internal use only within agencies for the next five years. Only the summary of the report has been made public. Annexes containing state secrets also form part of the report.


Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager, National Audit Office
+372 640 0777
+372 51 34 900
[email protected]
[email protected]

  • Posted: 6/21/2018 9:46 AM
  • Last Update: 6/26/2018 10:12 PM
  • Last Review: 6/26/2018 10:12 PM

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