Technological optimisation of operational centres and rescue services (ambulance system)

Project completed
In Estonia, with its sparse population and numerous forests, the rapid response of rescue forces is crucial in saving lives in an emergency.
In Estonia, with its sparse population and numerous forests, the rapid response of rescue forces is crucial in saving lives in an emergency. © Taisi Valdlo. Taisi Valdlo

In Estonia, with its sparse population and numerous forests, the rapid response of rescue forces is crucial in saving lives in an emergency. By financing two coordinated projects with CHF 3.3 million, Switzerland is helping to optimise the technology of operational centres and rescue services in Estonia.


Country/region Topic Period Budget
Improving social security
Various social services
15.12.2009 - 30.06.2014
CHF  1’280’000

Note: the texts under all the headings, with the exception of 'Results achieved', describe the situation before the start of the project.

Despite considerable efforts by the Estonian government to reduce the number of fatal accidents, in terms of the population these happen almost three times as often as the average for the EU and in Switzerland. The reasons for this include problems in locating accidents and rescue vehicles in sparsely populated areas with difficult terrain, a lack of coordination between rescue forces and hospitals, and the use of different, incompatible radio systems and outdated maps.

New technology for emergency vehicles and control centres

To rectify these deficiencies, Estonia launched a national strategy midway through the last decade which included integrating and networking all rescue services such as ambulances, fire brigade, police and border patrols, as well as introducing a uniform national radio network and coordinated use of the latest Internet technologies.

Switzerland has been financing two sub-areas of this ambitious project since 2010. In one, 120 ambulances and 55 medical centres are being equipped with modern radio systems and mobile software meeting the national standard. In the other, the hard- and software at the national Emergency Response Centre are being completely overhauled, an interactive, constantly updated electronic map is being developed and training courses are being held on the use of the new equipment. The integration of the police, fire brigade and other emergency services is being carried out in parallel as further sub-projects financed by the Estonian government.

These coordinated measures enable employees at the national Emergency Response Centre in Tallinn and in the four branches throughout the country to accurately locate incoming calls and rescue forces in the vicinity, give fast, precise instructions by radio, and record these electronically. T his enables fire brigade rescue workers to see at any time when an ambulance or the police are due to arrive at the scene of an accident, for example. Furthermore, once the paramedics have performed first aid at the scene of the accident, they can create electronic patient cards containing vital information on the patient's condition in the ambulance and transmit this electronically to the hospital before they arrive.

Time savings can be life-saving

This process greatly reduces the time between receipt of an emergency call and the arrival of rescue services on the scene, and to noticeably improves the quality of the Estonian rescue and care services. Both sub-projects promote measures in the area of eHealth, which is also gaining in significance in Switzerland. The modernisation of the emergency call and ambulance systems financed by the Swiss contribution will thus enable rescue services to be deployed in a coordinated and much more efficient manner in the future. This Swiss-financed modernisation is due to be completed in 2013, with digitisation of the entire Estonian emergency system to be concluded one year later.

The main aim of the projects of the Estonian Emergency Response Centre and the Health Board is to reduce the response time between the receipt of emergency calls (phone no. 112) and the time at which emergency services reach the scene, especially in rural areas, in order to secure a high-quality and evidence-based ambulance service throughout the country.

For this purpose, the Emergency Response Centre has obtained a digital operational map, which includes the necessary equipment for allocated rescue vehicles and the locations of ambulances and stations. The country’s ambulance services and emergency care hospitals will be provided with the necessary radio communication equipment. Ambulance stations will be equipped with portable computerised wireless workstations linked to a central e-health database, and an electronic case history system for paper-free patient data management is to be developed.

Janek Laev,
Director of the Emergency Response Centre