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Prevention

Early prevention of risks and crime as well as deaths and injuries resulting from accidents is of key importance in the creation of more secure communities and society as a whole.

The goal of prevention is to save lives and reduce harms. In other terms, prevention can reduce crime and by that the workload of law enforcement officials. It is obvious that the more educated the population, which also refers to safety awareness and respect to one's neighbour displayed by behaviour, the more secure the society. Every euro thoughtfully allocated for prevention is tenfold cheaper for society than dealing with the consequences of accidents.

 

Crime prevention

In the sphere of law enforcement, the Ministry of the Interior mainly focuses on the prevention of drug abuse, domestic violence and traffic offences. The relevant prevention measures are generally implemented by the Police and Border Guard Board.

In the recent years, the Ministry of the Interior has been paying more and more attention to crime prevention and has made significant investments into it. The task of the Ministry of the Interior lies in the coordination and financing of prevention projects. In cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Education and Research, we are working for crime prevention to function in all spheres and not only within separate activities.

Unfortunately, the problems resulting in committing criminal offences, including addiction problems, cannot be solved overnight. This is why the prevention activities of the Ministry of the Interior are primarily aimed at social prevention measures to alleviate the circumstances that foster crime and to prevent risk behavior.

Drug prevention

Being the evil that is causing more and more damage, drug addiction has become a serious and exhausting problem in Estonia. Decreasing the demand and supply of drugs is of great importance for society, and, thus, one of the major priorities within the administrative area of the Ministry of the Interior.

As one of the countries that has for several years, unfortunately, been among the European states with the highest number of injecting drug users and drug-related deaths, we can only succeed in or combat the reasons and consequences of drug abuse in close cooperation with various authorities, experts, non-government organisations and local governments.

To improve cooperation, in April 2012 we established the Government commission for the prevention of drug addiction with a view to ensuring the top national level of strategic coordination of both prevention and reduction of the supply of narcotic substances and to uniting the forces of everyone involved in the name of a common goal. The commission meets four times per year to discuss the current issues of the drug prevention sphere.

Alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse

Addiction is a serious and exhausting problem in Estonia. Abuse of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) results in large number of injuries, morbidities and deaths in the society. People in the influence of AOD-s cause great harm to themselves as well as others in homes, streets and other public places. Alcohol and tobacco use is a direct cause of large number of deaths due drowning and house fires. To decrease the harms of AOD-s to society, the reduction of abuse of legal (alcohol, tobacco) and illegal drugs must be handled together. Decreasing the demand and supply of drugs is of great importance for society, and, thus, one of the major priorities within the administrative area of the Ministry of the Interior.

Drug abuse is a negative social phenomenon, bringing disproportionately large social and personal consequences. The consistent use of drugs is accompanied by addiction, injury, leaving one's educational path, passivity in the employment market, added burdens on the health care and welfare systems, and crime, causing major harm to society and creating even more social problems. In the field of public order and internal security, the harms to society are often seen in the far end of the problem – resulting in drug overdoses and murders under the influence of AOD.

Prevention of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse requires a multi-modal approach and the involvement of stakeholders from all sectors. In 2014, the government approved green papers of alcohol and tobacco policy, which establish the roles of the stakeholders, set the principles and list the activities to create an environment which would reduce the alcohol and tobacco use. The main goals of alcohol policy is to protect children and youth and reduce alcohol-related harm.

In the field of illicit drugs, the role of Ministry of the Interior is to shape and coordinate the national policy, as well monitor its implementation. The activities, goals and principles of illicit drug policy are set in the white paper of drug abuse prevention (PDF), approved by the government in January 2014. The primary goal of the drug prevention policy is to permanently reduce the use of drugs in Estonia and their accompanying harms to society.

Domestic violence

The prevention and reduction of domestic violence is one of the most important goals of our country. One-fifth of Estonian residents have encountered domestic violence in their life. Although the police receive approximately 30 reports of domestic violence every day, a large share of such cases remains hidden. Violence against family members, intimate partners or relatives including both adults and children, is definitely not just a personal problem of those involved, but a problem that is seriously damaging to society. Consequences of domestic violence, in addition to physical injuries, also include the severe impact on mental and social health.

Studies have shown that attitudes supporting violence are quite widespread among the population. For example, every tenth person considers physical force as an acceptable method to discipline a partner. 22% of adults consider domestic violence as an internal matter of the family, and 54% consider the victim of violence as partially responsible for it. In 2015, the Government of the Republic approved the Violence Prevention Strategy 2015–2020, in which particular emphasis is put on prevention.

Present day activities aimed at the prevention of violence are fragmented, and the target group is not sufficiently covered. In order to achieve a long-term reduction of violence in domestic relationships and family, we must direct our attention first and foremost to young people.

In other countries all school students are offered comprehensive programmes which have demonstrated their impact on the prevention of violence in relationships of couples. In Estonia, it is also important to pay more attention to systematic and extensive work on the prevention of violence among young people, as the prevention of violence is, in any event, less expensive than dealing with its consequences.

 

Prevention of traffic hazards

In order to prevent traffic accidents and reduce the number of people who get injured and die as a result of them, three lines of activity are adopted in the area of government of the Ministry of the Interior: increasing the effectiveness of preventive activities, strengthening traffic supervision, and influencing traffic offenders.

According to a public opinion survey, people consider traffic as the most serious source of danger. During the years 2010−2014, an average of 60% of the participants in the survey felt that traffic (accidents, drivers under intoxication, etc.) was a source of danger to themselves and their family. Safe and secure participation in traffic is influenced by many road users. According to the annual review, during the period between 1 December 2013 and 30 November 2014, over 75,000 persons broke the traffic regulations, and a total of approximately 114,000 traffic infringements were registered. Negligent behaviour of road users causes large damage to society.

The Traffic Safety Programme 2003−2015 establishes the goal of influencing the behaviour of the road users, safety of vehicles and traffic infrastructure. The Ministry of the Interior and agencies of its area of government turn attention to the formation of behaviour and habits of road users, in order to prevent and reduce infringements related to the safety of pedestrians and the main reasons of fatal traffic accidents, which are exceeding the permitted driving speed limit, driving under the influence of alcohol exceeding permitted limits, and non-use of safety equipment.

 

Prevention of fire accidents and accidents on water

The purpose of prevention activities lies in preventing accidents and saving lives. We have had success in fulfilling this task as the population has adopted safer behaviour patterns and the number of fire accidents and accidents on water with severe consequences has decreased.

Each year, we have approximately 50 deaths caused by fire accidents and the same number caused by drowning. Although we have managed to reduce these numbers in the last decade, in comparison to the population the rates are still relatively high. Systematic prevention of fire accidents in Estonia was started in 2006 and prevention of drownings in 2010. The majority of fires and fire fatalities are caused by people’s carelessness. In order to direct attention to the dangers and achieve conscious behavior we perform various prevention activities.

In addition, we have increased the number of contacts with citizens. The most comprehensive project started from 2014 is “Home Fire Safety Improvement”, which is based on home visits mainly by professional rescuers. Starting in 2014, all 72 professional rescue brigades were engaged in conducting home visits, managing to visit over 7,800 households and in 2015 – over 14,800. Surveys show that people have high trust in professional rescuers’ knowledge; therefore, these kinds of visits are welcomed.  The goal of this activity was to assess the condition and risks of households from the perspective of fire safety, and to give advice on reducing fire hazards. Volunteers also contributed to these activities, sharing knowledge during household visits and on information days. This year, the Estonian Rescue Board also plans to visit 15,000 households.

In recent years, the main focus in fire and rescue safety prevention has been the stress on individual responsibility in increasing personal and family safety. In 2016, we also continue to emphasize the importance of interference. The largest number of people is reached through campaigns, however, we also direct attention to specific risk groups. In 2015, the Estonian Rescue Board organized 298 information and 35 safety days, in order to increase people’s awareness of hazards and methods of helping others in the case of accidents. These events helped to reach over 90,000 people in total. In addition to the abovementioned activities, educational programmes for different age groups are conducted each year – last year over 53 600 people received knowledge on fire safety, and over 7400 received knowledge on water safety. The Estonian Rescue Board manages to educate more than 4,6% of the population every year.

The biggest sites at risk from fire accidents are social welfare and health care institutions. For this reason one of our largest prevention projects ever is directed to this field. In the course of the Swiss Contribution to the Enlarged EU-Cooperation Programme with Estonia, approximately 950,000 euros were invested in the fire safety of social welfare and health care institutions.

 

Prevention of fire and water accidents

In Estonia, fire and rescue safety prevention includes two main areas: prevention of fire accidents and drownings.  In order to ensure the security of Estonian residents, the Rescue Board carries out different prevention activities among people from pre-school to elderly age.

Each year, we have approximately 50 deaths caused by fire accidents and the same number caused by drowning. Although we have managed to reduce these numbers in the last decade, in comparison to the population the rates are still relatively high. Systematic prevention of fire accidents in Estonia was started in 2006 and prevention of drownings in 2010. The majority of fires and fire fatalities are caused by people’s carelessness. In order to direct attention to the dangers and achieve conscious behaviour we perform various prevention activities.

In addition, we have increased the number of contacts with citizens. The most comprehensive project started from 2014 is “Home Fire Safety Improvement”, which is based on home visits mainly by professional rescuers and focused on families with financial difficulties. Last year, all 72 professional rescue brigades were engaged in conducting home visits for the first time, managing to visit over 7,800 households. Surveys show that people have high trust in professional rescuers’ knowledge; therefore, these kinds of visits are welcomed.  The goal of this activity was to assess the condition and risks of households from the perspective of fire safety, and to give advice on reducing fire hazards. Volunteers also contributed to these activities, sharing knowledge during household visits and on information days. This year, the Estonian Rescue Board plans to visit 15,000 households.

In recent years, the main focus in fire and rescue safety prevention has been the stress on individual responsibility in increasing personal and family safety. In 2015, we also continue to emphasise the importance of interference. The largest number of people is reached through campaigns, however, we also direct attention to specific risk groups. Last year, the educational film “Stop Your Friends” was presented to the public, demonstrating the hazards related to water, including swimming when drunk, which is often underestimated by people.

In 2014, the Estonian Rescue Board organised 311 information and 43 safety days, in order to increase people’s awareness of hazards and methods of helping others in the case of accidents. These events helped to reach over 100,000 people in total. In addition to the abovementioned activities, educational programmes for different age groups are conducted each year – last year over 34,000 children and young people received knowledge on fire safety, and over 8,000 students and conscripts received knowledge on water safety. The Estonian Rescue Board manages to educate more than 4% of the population every year.

The biggest sites at risk from fire accidents are social welfare and health care institutions. For this reason one of our largest prevention projects ever is directed to this field. In the course of the Swiss Contribution to the Enlarged EU-Cooperation Programme with Estonia, approximately 950,000 euros were invested in the fire safety of social welfare and health care institutions.

Fire safety supervision

Fire accidents can almost always be prevented. The Rescue Board officials work every day in order to identify, eliminate and prevent dangers, save lives and avoid damage to property.

The supervision performs checks, in order to ensure that working areas and public buildings are as safe as possible, risk to life of people is as low as possible, and that in the case of fire people can leave a building in a fast and safe manner.

The fire safety supervision performs building permits checks (with project control and on-site visits), fire safety checks and identification of causes of fire, as well as checks on products and services.

We would like to make fire safety supervision procedures as time-efficient as possible, so that supervision officials could dedicate even more time to difficult and complex buildings. It is important to find the causes of fire accidents and solutions to the problems, however, when it comes to fire hazards, in addition to the observation of safety requirements, people themselves must also be able to act in the safest way possible.

So far, the work of the fire safety supervision has been fruitful, and has helped to significantly reduce harm to the health of people and property.

In 2014, the fire safety supervision checked homes 2,429 times, analysed 1,833 cases of fire in buildings, performed procedures with regard to 659 detailed plans, of which 590 were approved, and issued 6,644 assessments with regard to building projects and gave 2,903 of them a permit of use. 2,903 self-check reports were submitted in 2014.

 

Last updated: 21 January 2016