ERC Operators rewarded for outstanding work
When the Kuopio school attack occurred, help was on the scene within eight minutes
The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) has acknowledged the Emergency Response Centre Agency’s actions when the Kuopio school attack took place. Finland’s emergency response centres are built around the professionalism of ERC operators and cooperation between authorities, and this case demonstrates the effectiveness of such an approach.
First emergency call answered within two seconds
On 1 October 2019, a pupil armed with a sword attacked the Savo Vocational College in Kuopio in the middle of a school day. The first call to the emergency number (112) was placed at 12:29 pm, and it was answered within two seconds. The case was referred to the police in under a minute, and the police apprehended the perpetrator approximately eight minutes after the Emergency Response Centre received the first call for help.
Tiina Kairaniemi was the Shift Supervisor at the Kuopio Emergency Response Centre at the time, and she was responsible for managing the Emergency Response Centre’s operations. Kairaniemi remembers the situation clearly.
“At 12:31 pm, the Emergency Response Centre notified the emergency medical services of the case. At 12:33 pm, the Emergency Response Centre also received an automatic fire alarm from the site, and this was forwarded to the emergency response unit. Due to the nature of the case, the social services were also brought into the fold. The case is an example of a genuinely multi-agency task, involving public safety authorities from the police, rescue services, emergency medical services and social services,” Kairaniemi says.
Success is based on cooperation and the will to help
Kari Nevalainen, Head of the Kuopio Emergency Response Centre, was on-site as the situation unfolded. The centre received a total of 23 emergency calls related to the case, and overlaps were quickly identified.
“I happened to be in the operations room when the situation began, so I stayed to see how it would develop. Right next to me, two operators were fielding emergency calls from the scene; one was instructing the caller to wait for the police behind a locked door and to apply pressure to the bleeding wound of one of the victims, while the other was passing on information from the emergency caller to the police. The Emergency Response Centre was taking several emergency calls at the same time, and the air was abuzz with operators talking to callers. Despite the confusing flood of information, the centre quickly obtained an accurate situational overview, and the atmosphere in the operations room remained calm,” Nevalainen says.
A total of 14 ERC Operators took calls related to the case. Most of the calls were taken at the Kuopio Emergency Response Centre, and some were answered in Kerava and Pori. Kairaniemi says that overtime requests were immediately sent out to ERC Operators at the onset of the situation.
“Many off-duty ERC Operators reported for work as soon as they heard about the situation, and we filled every available ERC Operator seat. In such a shocking situation, our operators immediately wanted to help and also support their colleagues at the Emergency Response Centre.”
At the time, three people with defusing training were present at the Emergency Response Centre. Defusing refers to the act of breaking down a mentally burdensome situation.
"Defusing began as soon as the first emergency calls related to the case had ended, and every ERC Operator involved in the case was given defusing support,” Kairaniemi says.
Situation brought rapidly under control
Nevalainen says that the situation in the emergency response centre’s operations room was brought rapidly under control, and the response was organised effectively.
“The Shift Supervisor quickly gained situational awareness and was able to make swift decisions. The personnel remained calm, and additional resources arrived on-site. The key to successfully handling unusual situations is to ensure that the supervisors at the Emergency Response Centre are up to date from the outset. This enables them to quickly check the division of duties, take action to secure additional resources and steer operations as the situation necessitates. In the case in Kuopio, the Shift Supervisor monitored the message traffic and heard the first emergency calls in the operations room. This enabled an immediate reaction, which was reflected in the way the Emergency Response Centre brought the situation under control,” Nevalainen says.
In the teaching facilities on the second floor of a shopping centre, the pupil had time to hurt ten people and kill one person. However, Nevalainen says that the very quick response of the public safety authorities prevented any further harm from occurring.
“The Finnish operating model for emergency response centres calls for all public safety authorities to work in close collaboration, and this case is an example of the efficiency and effectiveness of such an approach. The ERC Operators and police worked in seamless cooperation, as with all other authorities. Naturally, we hope that events like this will never occur, but the way this case was handled demonstrates how well the Finnish authorities can work together,” Nevalainen says.
Previous awards conferred by the European Emergency Number Association on the Finnish Emergency Response Centre Agency
- 'Outstanding Rescue 2014': In 2014, the Emergency Response Centre Authority and the Finnish Police were rewarded for their effective cooperation and successful rescue of an 8-year-old girl.
- 'Outstanding National 112 System 2013': In 2013, the Emergency Response Centre Authority won the EENA award, presented by the European Emergency Number Association, in the Outstanding National 112 System category.
- This award, publicised on 2 June 2021, was awarded to the Emergency Response Centre Authority in the ‘PSAP Award’ category.
European Emergency Number Association EENA
The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) was established in Brussels in 1999. The EENA aims to promote safety and the development of emergency response centre services in Europe. The EENA rewards individuals and organisations for significant contributions and achievements in promoting the emergency number, 112.
EENA’s members include more than 1,500 representatives of organisations related to emergency response operations in 80 countries, researchers, technical suppliers and more than 200 members of the European parliament.
Further information: eena.org