Brief History

The “birthday” of the Estonian Rescue Board may be considered May 25, 1992, when the Government of the Republic of Estonia issued a decree on the liquidation of the State Fire Service Board and on the transfer of its assets and functions to the National Rescue Board. This completed the two-year-old reform process for the reorganization of the Soviet firefighting system, combining at the moment two main autonomous areas in this field: fire protection and civil defense. Civil Air Defense and the Fire Department, which was established in 1937 and in which the functions of firefighting and civil defense were also united can be regarded a distant predecessor of the Estonian Rescue Board in the Republic of Estonia.

To understand the development of the Estonian Rescue Board, we should go back in time further than the year 1992 and take a look at the end of the Soviet period. The management structure of the firefighting was the Firefighting Administration under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which in 1990 was renamed the Fire Fighting Board of the Ministry of the Interior, and despite the name change, maintained the organization's former structure and working principles. In the civil defense field, a civil defense system under the Chairman of the Estonian SSR Council of Ministers was operating whose governing structure was the Civil Defense Staff of the ESSR, which in turn was subordinated to the respective staffs operating at the executive committees of the Council of People's Deputies of the districts and under the authority of the Republic. The Cold War-era civil defense organization had by that time exhausted its capacities as the focus of civil defense has shifted from military dangers to crisis management and eliminating of the consequences of a disaster, which in turn has led to extensive rescue-related reforms throughout the world. One of the first steps was joining civil defense to the firefighting department in Sweden in 1986; the Swedish experience continued to play an important part in the reorganization of the Estonian civil defense system in the early 1990's.

At the meeting of the Committee of Emergency Situations of the Government of the Republic of Estonia on October 22, 1990, the initial vision of the Rescue Service concept was presented, which was also approved in principle. It was also the first document to introduce the term "rescue service." After corrections and approvals, it was approved on 4 December 1991 by the Government of the Republic. Based on the new principles, the National Rescue Board of the Republic of Estonia was established on the basis of the Civil Defense Staff with the Government of the Republic Regulation of 10 September 1991.

Although the Rescue Board was set up as a legal entity for performance of civil defense tasks on 10 September 1991, the Estonian Rescue Board in its present sense was formed on 25 May 1992 when civil protection, firefighting, and rescue operations were combined.

During the first year of operation, the focus lay on the development of a new central authority. An important challenge in the decades that followed was the development of legislation governing the field's activities. It was started already in 1990. The first law to come into force was the Civil Protection Act in 1992, the first Rescue Act Republic of the Republic of Estonia came into force in 1994 (the currently valid Rescue Act was adopted in 2012). A number of changes have also been made to the structure of the Estonian Rescue Board. The last major restructuring took place at the beginning of 2012 as the Alarm Center was transformed into an independent government agency within the area of government of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Northern Estonia Rescue Center, the Southern Estonian Rescue Center, the Eastern Estonia Rescue Center and the Western Estonia Rescue Center, which previously belonged to area of government of the Estonian Rescue Board, were merged under the unified management of the Estonian Rescue Board.