Estonia: Capabilities, Organisations, Policies, and Legislation in crisis management and disaster response

Publication Type:



IT4Sec Reports, Institute of Information and Communication Technologies, Number 124, Sofia (2015)


centralisation, Civil Security, disaster preparedness, disaster response, Estonia, Ministry of Interior, niche capabilities


The Estonian crisis management system is based on measures that can be taken in order to protect human life, property and the environment during civil emergencies. In Estonia the highest authority responsible for emergency and disaster management is the Ministry of Interior. It is responsible for policy formulation and its execution in the area of civil security. At regional level county governors are directly responsible to the Minister of the Interior for crisis management matters. The county governor is the highest crisis management authority at regional level. At local level the main body responsible for civil protection is the local government council which has established the local crisis management committee chaired by the mayor.

The Estonian Rescue Board is directly subordinate to the Ministry of Interior and has a key role in representing Estonia in various international forums such as the UN, EU and NATO and other relevant civil security organisations. Another national government institution under the authority of the Ministry of Interior is the Emergency Response Centre responsible for processing emergency calls to the emergency 112 number and sending out rescue teams to the place of the emergency.

As in the other Baltic Region States the organisational structure is centralised, i.e. coordinated and mostly organised by the central national civil protection authority, as is the case with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Additionally, the use of private rescue services is low in the Baltic Countries.

The Defence Forces could be deployed in response of crisis or disaster, but in cases where all the other crisis management capabilities of the state have been exhausted or where the required resources or capabilities are only available to the Defence Forces.

The civil protection expenditures are approximately 0.6% of GDP of Estonia.

The most important non-profit and volunteer organisations in Estonia are regarded the Red Cross, the Estonian Volunteer Fire-Fighters Union, the Estonian Association of Fire and Rescue Chiefs, and the Estonian Life Saving Association and Defence League, who have also been given the task of assisting in rescue work.

The main regulative framework for civil protection and emergencies is defined by the Emergency Act and the Rescue Act of Estonia.

The National Security Concept of the Republic of Estonia is a key document that establishes the objectives, principles and directions of security policy. The National Security Concept highlights crisis management as one of the essentially important tasks. Another important conceptual document is the Strategy of the Estonian Rescue Board 2015-2025 which plans the Board’s activities in a ten year timeframe.

The systems for training in the field of civil protection are quite different in the Baltic region, however they share some basic features. Education in civil protection and rescue has a legal foundation in all of the Baltic Region countries. Basic and advanced education at the national level is standardised through the use of certificates, as well as the development of educational and training curricula. All of the Baltic region states have specialised schools and colleges which carry out education in civil protection and rescue area.

Estonia has signed regional and multilateral provisions of the Council of Europe, the EU, the NATO and the OSCE for assistance in crisis situations. Estonia is also an active initiator in the field of maritime cooperation and of strategic and operational dialogue among the Baltic Sea countries.

Potential niche capability in which Estonia could realistically contribute to the European crisis management community is the development of software solutions in the cyber defence and the programming of autonomous platforms and systems field of expertise. Estonia could provide software solutions and expertise from which EU member states could benefit and establish new ways for cooperation in the cyber security field.

Last updated: Tuesday, 30 June 2015