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Foreign Ministry to set up Emergency Teams

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has decided to set up disaster groups of three or four people. According to the plan, the groups could be deployed at short notice to help Finnish embassies deal with emergencies affecting Finns in foreign countries.

The Foreign Ministry says that its rapid reaction groups will comprise the ministry's own consultants on a voluntary basis. If necessary they can also include rescue and medical experts.

Under the plan, the crisis groups would make an assessment of the situation in the crisis area, and ask for more help, if necessary. To this end they are to have sufficient technical equipment and communications tools.

Pekka Hyvönen, the head of the unit of consular affairs at the Foreign Ministry, says that the basic equipment would include good communications technology, such as satellite and telephones laptop computers with Internet connections, and digital cameras.

He adds that it is important for text, pictures, and sound to move from any part of the world to Helsinki, even when local networks are out of order.

The idea of setting up some kind of emergency groups at the Foreign Ministry had been put forward before the Asian tsunami, but the catastrophe gave an extra boost to the project.

Britain already has such teams, and Norway is planning to set up such a system as well. The British groups were set up after the terror attacks in Bali in 2002.

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