At the beginning of July came true our visit to Swedish colleagues. We had been looking forward to this excursion for months. Preparations for the trip started actually in March: there was need to write letters, to come to agreements, to write projects and applications, to translate materials, to create a website, to order emblems and gifts and new T- shirts and coats. When all these things had done, our trip could start.
From the very first we understood that we had reached the country which has been wisely ruled for many years. The high standard of living has been taken years of careful planning and it is worth to study.
When we arrived in Vara we were warmly welcomed by the board of Vara Municipality at Vara Youth Club. We stayed in that nice and cosy accommodations for three nights.
In the next morning our study visit started from the building of Vara Municipality where Gert Norell, chief executive officer, gave us a brief overview of municipality. After a short discussion we went to an excursion around the town. Helena Torsell, international coordinator, led and guided us and all the trip was connected with safety topic.
After the town excursion we reached Vara Fire Station. Discussing about rescue service in Estonia and in Sweden we understood that our systems are quite different. There are 3 levels in Swedish rescue system: professionals, semi-professionals and volunteers (without a fire station and vehicles). Therefore, there does not exist exactly the same level for us in Sweden.
Vara Firemen`s Club has 20 members, all of them are men. They look forward to the opportunity to work with women colleagues but the physical test for firefighters is so hard that any woman has never been able to pass it.
Vara firemen are semi-professionals who are paid for rescue service they take part in but which they do not do all the time. There is need to study 7 week and to pass the physical test (different from Estonian tests) for receiving the sertificate of rescuer. Semi-professionals deal with road accidents as well. Every man has to be at action stations one week in a month but can continue his worklife at the same time if there is no alarm.
Vara Fire Station receives approximately 3- 4 alarms a week: the main reason is road accidents, not the fire.
There is an ambulance crew 24 hours a day in the fire station as well but it belongs to the medicine system. The firemen and the ambulance crew share only the rooms.
In addition to this, there are a conference room, a museum and a fitness gym in the Vara Fire Station.
Vara firemen do not organize cultural events for citizens opposite to us but they have published a calendar for charity and have learnt one dance for fun. We found a similarity between us as well- we have both took part in Fire Championships and held the championship for many years.
We made history with giving the emblems of Laukna Fire Brigade to our friends because these were the first emblems they got. The reason was simple- none has never visited Vara Firemen`s Club before us.
The day continued with a barbecue party beside an outdoor swimmingpool. The barbecue master of Vara personally prepared a delicious dinner for us and we had a golden opportunity to taste traditional Swedish Princess Cake.
All evening we talked and discussed with each other openly and honestly. We really gelled during that party.
The next day was spent in Lidköping and in the surrounding countryside.
At first we visited Lidköping Fire Station where two firefighters described the management of their rescue service in detail and showed all vehicles. It was impressive- they are so well equipped for the service.
The fire station in Lidköping is the only professional and leading body of rescue service in this area. It is reasoned- the need is covered by 5 semi-professional brigades (Vara, Kvänum, Grästorp, Nossebro, Järpas) and by one professional brigade (Lidköping). Four municipalities (Lidköping, Vara, Grästorp, Essunga) work in close collaboration on safety questions and the matter is very well considered.
The fire station rents four ambulances and one ambulance crew is 24 hours a day in the fire station. The medical team belongs to the medicine system, it shares only the building with the firefighters.
There is a fitness gym in this fire station as well and professionals have to pass the physical test twice a year (semi-professionals only once a year).
Lidköping Fire Station has an additional unique purpose: it can be used as a shelter in disaster. Therefore, the bilding has its own water- and electric power system.
In the afternoon we visited beautiful Läckö Castle beside Lake Vänern. We walked around different rooms, enjoyed exhibitions and sat in the kitchen garden. But we had an extremely interesting opportunity as well- we could cast an eye over the fire alarm system of the bilding! It was exciting to be in the dusty attic at the top of the castle…
In the last morning of our trip we visited Husqvarna Industrial Museum which is the best example how flexibly has been the company managed. Husqvarna company is not just a structure, it is a process- more than 300 years of industrial development.
Swedish firefighters will be welcome to Estonia next summer. We hope that Finnish colleagues will join with them as well and we will have an opportunity to arrange an interesting and warm host for all guests.
Finally, we would like to thank our hosts: Helena Torsell, Gert Norell, Frederik Nelander, Eda Ekendahl, Vara Firemen`s Club and Lidköping Fire Brigade.
We would like to thank Märjamaa and Kullamaa Municipalities for financial support that made this study visit feasible.