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International armed conflicts

  • Follow the orders and instructions of the authorities!
  • REGULARLY MONITOR THE NEWS FROM RELIABLE INFORMATION CHANNELS (ABOVE ALL PUBLIC BROADCASTING). VERIFY THE CORRECTNESS OF THE INFORMATION.
  • BE PREPARED FOR THE DISRUPTION OF SERVICES AND INDEPENDENT COPING.
  • Be ready to find shelter and evacuate!
  • Avoid contact with enemy soldiers!
  • EVERY ESTONIAN CITIZEN HAS THE RIGHT TO INITIATE RESISTANCE AGAINST A FORCIBLE CHANGE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER.

The following instructions apply in armed conflicts, during air attacks and artillery fire, and in areas occupied by enemy forces.

Behaving as a civilian during an armed conflict

Signs of danger

  • You hear or see an official warning about an armed conflict that has begun.
  • You hear or see battle, armed attack, shooting, or explosions.
  • You see enemy fighters.

How to act in an armed conflict area where no direct fighting is taking place

  • Regularly monitor the news from reliable information channels (above all public broadcasting, which in Estonia is the ERR). Double-check information from unknown sources.
  • Be prepared for the disruption of multiple services, such as electricity, water, data communication, etc. Check whether you have the supplies and tools necessary to manage on your own at your home. If not, obtain them (see the chapter “Self-sufficient managing in case of an interruption in vital services” and “Home stocks and aids”). Find out where the nearest places are where you can you get help during the crisis: hospitals, evacuation sites, shelters, places where essential resources are distributed, etc.
  • Comply with the orders of the authorities (such as the police, rescuers, servicemen) and the guidelines of the allied forces supporting them. Depending on the threat, orders for evacuation or seeking shelter may be given to protect the population. Additionally, movement restrictions may be applied.
  • Prepare for evacuation (see the chapter “Evacuation”):
    • find a place away from the danger zone and preferably outside the city where you can go if necessary;
    • pack your essential items (including documents, valuables);
    • if you cannot find a suitable place for evacuation yourself, find out where the official evacuation places are.
  • When you move around, always carry your identity documents and copies of them with you.
  • If possible, only move when it is light outside.
  • Do not leave children unattended.
  • Help those in need, including the sick and the elderly.
  • Avoid contact with enemy soldiers and do not put your life at risk with provocative behaviour (for example, public filming or taking photos, aiming with a weapon-like object, displaying public resistance).
  • Do not touch abandoned weapons or munitions or any other unidentified object, as they may be masked explosive devices or otherwise dangerous.
  • Avoid places that may be mined, such as abandoned buildings and bridges. If possible, move on undamaged hard-paved roads, which are more difficult to mine unnoticed.

Worth knowing

  • If you have a personal weapon for self-defence, remember that even during armed conflict, you are allowed to use it only to protect yourself, your family, and your home. Using it for other purposes may make you a target or a criminal.
  • Do not wear clothes with camouflage patterns, disguise clothes, or keep guns in places where people can see them, because you might be considered a soldier.
  • Do not distribute information (such as photographs, videos, texts) on the activities and location of Estonian and allied soldiers. This information may be used by enemy intelligence units, which puts the Estonian defenders at risk. However, share information with Estonian and allied soldiers when the soldiers ask you for it.

How to act in an armed conflict area during fighting

  • Take cover and hide when there is gunfire.
  • If you are outside when you hear shooting, do not run, but immediately drop to the ground and cover your head and neck with your hands. Keep yourself as close to the ground as possible and stay in that position until the shooting stops.
  • When the shooting stops, go indoors as soon as possible (see the chapter “Hiding indoors”) or another place that offers shelter, such as a ditch.
  • If you notice soldiers, do not approach them, as you may become a target or be hit with a stray bullet.
  • If you reach a checkpoint or come in contact with a patrol, stay calm, obey their orders, and be ready to identify yourself.
  • If you are indoors when you hear shooting, avoid the windows, turn off the lights, and hide in a room without windows, such as a bathroom or the hallway.
  • Do not touch any unidentified object – they may be masked explosive devices or otherwise dangerous.
  • If you have been evacuated and your place of residence is located in the danger zone or is in the hands of enemy forces, do not try to return home.

Acting during an air attack and artillery fire

Signs of danger

  • You hear or see an official air attack warning.
  • You see military aircraft and attack helicopters.
  • You see or hear an explosion.

How to prepare for a possible air attack and artillery fire

  • Follow the instructions of the authorities. Depending on the threat, orders for evacuation or seeking shelter may be given to protect the population. Additionally, there may be movement restrictions.
  • Prepare for evacuation (see the chapter “Evacuation”):
    • find a place away from the danger zone and preferably outside the city where you can go if necessary;
    • pack your essential items (including documents, valuables).
    • if you cannot find a suitable place for evacuation yourself, find out where the official evacuation places are.
  • Get ready to hide indoors (see the chapter “Hiding indoors”):
    • find a suitable place to hide in an underground basement or another room without windows;
    • prefer smaller rooms – their ceilings bear loads better;
    • find out which walls are load-bearing. Stay close to those walls during bombing;
    • keep your evacuation bag and the things you need to hide indoors packed;
    • keep within reach a fire extinguisher, a spade, and a crowbar to save yourself in case of a collapse.
  • Put film or trash bags on the windows with tape and pull down the blinds or pull the curtains together. This way, people outside cannot see the lights in the room and in the event of an explosion, glass shards do not end up in the room.
  • If you have the time, resources, and skills, support the inserted ceilings with wooden beams and cover the windows from the inside with bags of sand or with larger covers.
  • It is important that what you do to make your home more enduring would not be visible from the outside – then, there is less chance of becoming a target.

How to act in an event of an air attack warning

  • Act carefully and do not let panic take over.
  • If possible, close the gas and water taps, turn off the electricity, and extinguish the fire in the fireplace or oven to prevent fires and leaks.
  • Open the windows because it reduces the risk of windows breaking due to overpressure.
  • Turn off the lights (including flashlights) and blow out the candles, pull the curtains together, and, if possible, place some pieces of furniture or a refrigerator in front of the windows to protect yourself from chips of glass.
  • If possible, hide in the basement or a room without windows. Take the evacuation bag, fire extinguisher, spade, and crowbar with you.
  • Warn your neighbours and loved ones.

How to act in an event of an air attack

  • If you are outside, hide in the closest room or a place that offers protection. Use a ditch, a cavity in the ground, or a concrete structure.
  • If you are in a car, stop at the nearest place that offers protection (e.g., a ditch, stone building, forest), exit the car, and take shelter.
  • Immediately drop to the ground, cover your head and neck with your hands, and push your heels together to reduce the risk of being injured by chips.
  • If possible, hide in a basement. If there is no basement, go to the ground floor, and find a room without windows, if possible. Do not use elevators.
  • While hiding, sit on the floor and stay close to the load-bearing walls. Stay away from the windows. If you are hiding in a room with a window, stay close to the wall where the window is, but do not hide under the window – this way, you can avoid injuries from chips of glass.
  • If possible, hide behind furniture or under a table.
  • If the building catches on firen or there is a risk of collapse, get out of it and find another suitable building right away.

How to act if you are trapped under debris

  • Stay calm and think before you act.
  • Move carefully to prevent the debris from moving.
  • Carefully release your hands and feet.
  • Breathe through a cloth to protect your airways from dust.
  • Check to see if you were injured and stop the bleeding by pressing a cloth or your hand on the wound.
  • If you can move around, look for an exit or take shelter in a safer place, for example, near load-bearing walls or in doorways.
  • Do not move broken beams, bricks, or other debris – they may be supporting a large amount of stone waste above you which can collapse on you.
  • Shout and look around to find out whether there are other people near you.
  • If possible, eat and drink something.
  • Keep yourself warm and in a curled position.
  • If you are stuck under the debris and cannot get out, regularly move your fingers and toes to improve blood circulation.
  • Think about your loved ones to overcome negative thoughts. Getting help can take time; do not lose hope.
  • If you hear that the battle is over, try to let others know that you are stuck there. The rescue work may take time.

Occupation means that a country or part of it has been captured by the armed forces of another country. During occupation, the territory of the state is under the control of the enemy and its representatives try to establish themselves as the official power, trying to win the support and trust of the local population, and keep them in a blackout at the same time. Occupation is usually accompanied by intense propaganda, provocation to treachery and violence towards compatriots, extensive repression of the civilian population, and increase in crime.

Worth knowing

To maintain national sovereignty and its continuity, the goal of Estonian security policy is to prevent and pre-empt threats, as well as counter them quickly and flexibly, should the need arise. Estonia will defend itself in any case, no matter how overwhelming the opponent might be. If the state temporarily loses control over a part of its territory, Estonian citizens will engage in organised resistance in that area. This principle has also been written into the National Security Concept of Estonia.

  • Be ready to cope on your own for a longer period of time in the event of interruptions in vital services or reduced availability of goods. If possible, stock up on water, food, and other necessary items. (See the chapter “Self-sufficient managing in case of an interruption in vital services” and “Home stocks and aids”).
  • Find out which places offer help: hospital, ambulance, rescue service, etc.
  • Collaborate with other people in the same area to cope better together. Help those in need; do not leave them alone.
  • If you have to move around, do so on foot or by bike, and, if possible, only when it is light.
  • Avoid places and tell others to avoid places that may be mined, such as abandoned buildings and bridges.
  • Do not touch abandoned weapons or munitions or any other unidentified object, as they may be masked explosive devices or otherwise dangerous.
  • Avoid contact with soldiers of the occupation forces and do not put your life at risk with provocative behaviour (for example, public filming or taking photos, aiming with a weapon-like object, showing public resistance).
  • By protecting yourself, do not cause harm to other people suffering from the occupation forces.
  • Do not trust the information from the occupying state that you see in the media.
  • When family members are separated from each other during an armed conflict, inform humanitarian organisations (such as the Red Cross) who help people find information and reunite families.
  • Be ready for the combat to continue and protect yourself and your loved ones.

Worth knowing

It is possible to contribute to the end of the occupation without violence if you resist the enemy representatives by following these recommendations:

  • Do not cooperate with the occupation forces: do not share information with them, do not take part in public meetings or events, do not allow yourself to be used as additional labour in the construction of defence facilities, etc.
  • Follow the laws of the Republic of Estonia, not the rules established by the occupation power. Act on the basis of common human values and practices.
  • Do not let yourself be provoked to violence.
  • If you see violations of human rights and constitutional values, help bring them to an end. If this is possible without endangering yourself and others, capture the violations secretly and share the evidence with the Estonian and international community.
  • Help victims of violence.
  • Do not give interviews to representatives of the occupation power. Do not allow yourself to be filmed or taken photos of.
  • Collaborate with other community members and contribute to the continuation of civic initiatives.

People are not left alone in the occupied territory; the Republic of Estonia and international humanitarian organizations will help them to cope in different ways.

  • Humanitarian law obliges the occupying country to provide the population with food, medicines, and essential clothing, bedding, shelter, and other means.
  • A number of international humanitarian organisations will try to provide assistance in the crisis areas. The occupying state has a duty to facilitate the delivery of aid packages.
  • The emblems of international humanitarian organizations:

    The Red Cross and Red Crescent

    The United Nations

  • In order to survive during the occupation period, it is important to know the previous experiences of freedom-fighting and gaining independence and, if necessary, to use them.

What to do in a crisis

Every state does whatever it can to prevent or respond to crisis situations. Still, help will not always reach all people quickly enough because some crises can affect a large part of the population and last for days or even weeks.

Until help arrives and services are resumed, your welfare and that of your loved ones will largely depend on your own preparedness.

The web page “Kriis.ee” contains tips on how to get prepared for various types of crisis situations and what to do if there actually is one.

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