Mass evacuation means the temporary relocation of people from an endangered area to a safe location in the event of an emergency or a risk thereof. Thousands or even more evacuees may be evacuated in certain cases.
Evacuation may occur before, during, or after the event and it may be voluntary or advisable. Mass evacuation is a large-scale logistical operation with the entire country being directly or indirectly involved in responding to the situation. This is an event which calls for a joint contribution of many different authorities, the coordinated activity of local government units, and the awareness and preparedness of the population.
A lot of preliminary work must be done to ensure a smooth mass evacuation in a threat situation:
- the Estonian Rescue Board prepared a plan for organising an evacuation, which includes the principles, agreements, and action plan for mass evacuation, the latter describing how to contribute at the national and regional levels and for developing the cooperation with partners
- potential evacuation sites all across Estonia were mapped with a total capacity of approximately up to 50,000 people
- the supplies required for accommodating people at the evacuation sites will be procured, such as beds, mattresses, sleeping supplies, bedding, as well as the supplies required for the functioning of the evacuation site – partition walls, flooring for the halls, and the supplies required for power supply (generators, charging stations, lamps, flash lights, any cables required, etc.). Ramps, locked cabinets, supplies for the functioning of the headquarters, the devices required for heating/cooling the buildings, etc. will also be procured.
This autumn, on 28–29 September, there will also be a large-scale CREVEX exercise, which will be focused on carrying out a mass evacuation in the case of an extensive crisis, among other things. The exercise will involve practising the evacuation of almost 1,000 people from a threat area in real time, with evacuation spots for accommodating the evacuees opened in cooperation with local municipalities in the course of the process.
As of 1 January 2022, the Estonian Rescue Board is responsible for preparing for mass evacuations and organising such evacuations.