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Member organization: The Finnish Lifeboat Institution

In this new article series, member organizations of the 25-year-old Kansalaisareena (Citizen Forum) describe their operations and activities.

The search and rescue units of The Finnish Lifeboat Institution all around the country are manned with approximately 1500 volunteers. The institution also offers other sea-rescue-related opportunities for volunteer work. All kinds of skills are needed.

Encouraged and inspired by his older brother, Juho Hannus put in an application to become a volunteer sea rescuer in the early 2017. Hannus had no prior experience in rescue operations, but that didn’t hold him back. During the spring, Hannus progressed through the interviews and training courses; from a newcomer to a trainee on a rescue vessel.

A year later his dream of becoming a member of the rescue crew gets closer and closer.

– I hope I’ll be appointed seaman early this summer. Then I get to help with completing the minimum manning of the lifeboat, giving my contribution, reflects Hannus.

Close-knit group, firm commitment

– Helping others is one of the biggest motivators for a sea rescuer, says Jaakko Heikkilä, the head of the training division in The Finnish Lifeboat Institution.

Another thing that inspires the rescuers is learning, which doesn’t end even after decades of experience.

According to Heikkilä, it is easy to get started with volunteer maritime rescue: the institution trains all rescuers from start to finish. No prior training or experience in seafaring or navigation is required.

During the training of newcomers, a lot of attention is paid to personal safety and saving oneself, operating in water, and fire and damage control of the lifeboat. After this, the sea-rescuer-in-training gets to become a part of the crew as a trainee.

– Even if you’re the commander of a Finland-Sweden cruise ship, you have to start from the beginning, just like everyone else, laughs Heikkilä.

Prior skills are, of course, useful, but it is more important to commit to the hobby: becoming a lifeboat rescuer requires a lot of time and willingness to work for the organization.

People of different ages and vocational backgrounds form a close-knit group, that works for the common good.

– Yes, us sea-rescuers become a family of sorts. In the long run, an important reason for continuing the hobby is the group, says Heikkilä.

Different skills are always needed

Those interested in The Finnish Lifeboat Institution should contact their local sea- or lake-rescue organization; according to Heikkilä, new volunteers are always needed regardless of the size of the locality.

One can participate in the activities of The Finnish Lifeboat Institution in many ways: a background in technology or marketing, for example, can be of great help depending on the needs of the local chapter.

Juho Hannus has been a volunteer for a year. In his organization, you can find paramedics, musicians and lawyers. Hannus works as a factory engineer, and for him being out on the sea and working with his hands provides a good counterbalance to working on a computer.

– Machines have always been close to my heart, so I joined the maintenance commission. During docking maintenance of the lifeboats, I got to take apart and rebuild a jet engine – exactly the kind of work I like to do, smiles Hannus.

Volunteer rescuers at sea

The Finnish Lifeboat Institution bases its operations on the volunteer sea-rescuers’ willingness to help and work altruistically. The association has 57 member organizations, 62 rescue stations, and 130 lifeboats around the country, on the coast and on lakes. Every year the volunteers handle approximately 1500 rescue operations, which help over 3000 people.

Translation: Satu Puolitaival

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