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Monday's papers: Storm knocks out power, army cyber woes, and diversity for emergency services

A storm that left thousands of households in the west of the country without power overnight was a lead item in most Finnish newspapers on Monday.

Aku-myrsky huuhtoo vettä rantaan Lauttasaaressa Helsingissä.
Waves along Helsinki's coast during Sunday's night's storm. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Sunday night's storm, christened "Aku" hit western coastal areas Sunday night with high, gusty winds that downed trees and power lines. The newsstand tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reported this morning that just before 11 PM on Sunday, there were around 7,500 households nationwide without electricity. By 4 AM, that figure had dropped to just over 4,000.

Most of the outages were seen in the southwest. The region of Kainuu, which has suffered from power outages from heavy snows over the past two weeks, had only a couple of hundred homes still off the grid.

According to the Foreca weather service, there were gusts of wind overnight topping 30m/s. The highest winds were at Kaskinen in Ostrobothnia on the west coast where they hit 32.8m/s.

The Tampere-based Aamulehti reported that high winds along the south coast late in the night passed by the early morning hours with the last high gusts recorded around 6 AM. The paper notes that a new low pressure system is expected to move into northern parts of Finland today bringing gale force gusts of wind to the fells of Lapland.

Military facing lack of digital expertise

Several papers, including the late-edition Iltalehti carry an item by the Uutissuomalainen news agency according to which the Finnish Defence Forces are expecting growing problems in recruiting competent personnel to handle cyber defence and regular ICT operations.

It quotes the commander of the Defence Force's command systems, Mikko Heiskanen, as saying that while the situation is not yet critical, the expected shortage of personnel may directly affect defence activities and significantly impact national security.

One of the main reasons for difficulties in recruiting high-tech expertise, the report says, is that the Defence Forces has "neither the money nor the desire" to compete with the private sector.

"There is no way that we meet the salary demands of the best experts which are multiple times higher than what our resources allow. That means that we don't necessarily get the expertise that we we'd like. We have to be satisfied with the people we do get," Mikko Heiskanen said.

Instead of high salaries, the military is counting on the appeal of job interest and satisfaction. "For example, working for us, one can legally do the kind of things that would be illegal in any other job, for instance hack computer systems and modify the data," Heiskanen explained. He went on to say that it is estimated that Europe will need up to 200,000 new cyber security professionals within the next few years and the Defence Forces will be competing to recruit from the same pool as other employers in Finland and elsewhere.

Uutissuomalainen reports that the Defence Forces are planning special investment in cyber security, bringing in an additional 200 full-time professionals by 2024. By law, only Finnish citizens can be hired for these jobs. According to Mikko Heiskanen, this is not however the reason for difficulties in recruiting new talent, nor will this requirement be abolished.

Diversity in emergency services

The lead item in Monday's Metro freesheet is the news that the City of Helsinki is pushing to achieve more ethnic diversity on its teams of first responders.

Helsinki City's Rescue School has just issued an invitation to apply for its programme that includes a note of special encouragement to applicants of multicultural origins and to women.

The students accepted will be trained as safety experts qualified for work in accident and emergency prevention, preparedness, civil defence, rescue operations and medical first response.

Metro quotes the school's head of development, Marko Seppä, as saying that the aim is for the demographics of emergency services to better reflect the diversity of the city's population. He added that bringing more diversity into the force can be of practical value in, for example, dealing with foreign-language speakers. Also, he noted, in some medical response situations, patients may feel more comfortable being aided by a female paramedic.

The Rescue Department’s chief communications officer, Taisto Hakala told the paper that it is important for first responders to understand the people that they serve and that, "Our legally mandated job is to provide safety services to everyone, be they ethnic Finns, tourists or undocumented migrants."

Applicants for the programme are required to speak Finnish.

"Our operative language is Finnish, so knowledge of Finnish is necessary to avoid risks to those we are helping and for our own safety, even under the most critical circumstances," explained Marko Seppä.

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