Voluntary Rescue Service „Vapepa“

Historical background

The voluntary rescue service (Vapepa, i.e. Vapaaehtoinen pelastuspalvelu) was established in the year 1964 in order to help authorities in e.g. finding persons who had gone lost in the forests. In conjunction with the rescue operations also the number of voluntary road service patrols increased in the 1960s. As the Suomen Autoklubi AK (Finnish Automobile Club, FAC) and the Automobile and Touring Club of Finland, ATCF, (Suomen Autoliitto) got united in the year 1972, the road service was considered as one of the essential club services.

1970s and 1980s were decades, during which the road service developed and increased further. Tight and clear rules were introduced for road service actions, all the patrols got proper first aid equipment and radio phones. Many Autoliitto members were eager to help others and they also had great interest in car mechanics. Out of a free time hobby grew an important part of road safety policy.

Fields of activity of road service

Service given on the road for a stranded driver can be defined as “first aid” for the car which has had a breakdown. The first aid assistance means fault analysis and reparation of small defects. The aim is to fix the broken vehicle on the spot of the incident in such a way that the journey can safely be continued by the own vehicle. Because the conditions on the road vary in each case, no guarantee can be given that the reparation can be carried on the spot. If the vehicle can’t be repaired, the customers will be helped and information given how to continue their journey.

Voluntary road service today

The demand for road service has increased immensely in the last years. People ask for help around the clock. The operating principle of road service has been modified for more professional service, because the resources based on voluntary people were not enough to help motorists with breakdowns.

Today the road service of Autoliitto is an entity which comprises several integrated contributors. Road service is offered 24 hours per day and in addition to the voluntary patrols assistance is given by cooperation partners and professional road service operators. There are still 250 voluntary patrol men and they are a part of this entity. The voluntary patrols are mainly on duty during the weekends and on holidays, but occasionally, if they can manage, they also help on weekdays.

As the demand for road service grew ever bigger, Autoliitto introduced a service centre for assistance services. The service centre can be reached everywhere in Finland 24 hours per day by the phone number 0200-8080. The cost of call is 1,95 euro/minute plus local area network charge. All callers get always personal individual service. On the grounds of the problem, location and other information related to the person needing help, the person in duty will search for the closest available road patrol or other assisting company. When somebody is in trouble, the assistance service centre can also provide other kind of help by e.g. connecting the call to a towing company, or a garage, lock or tyre company, rent-a-car company, lodging company, the nearest taxi or to an insurance company. The service centre also gives information about road conditions, weather, road works, timetables of archipelago ferries and ferries replacing bridges on roads, petrol stations, shops and cafeterias.

Costs of the assistance

Voluntary road service

If a voluntary road service man is patrolling on the road and finds a stranded motorist when passing by, the first aid assistance is usually free of charge. Also assistance related with road traffic accidents does not generally cost anything, whereas assistance ordered via the service centre must be paid for. When ordering assistance, it is advisable to ask the price in advance and also make an agreement about the method of payment. All spare parts, utensils and delivered fuel must be paid for.

Professional road service

Cooperation partners of Autoliitto and professional road service operators are run on commercial basis, which means that their prices differ fundamentally from the prices of the voluntary road service patrols. The prices of the voluntary men are merely expense reimbursements. It is recommendable to agree on the costs and method of payment in advance.

The members of Autoliitto will be helped first and usually they also get price discounts of the services.

Another solution is to sign in advance the Autoliitto Assistance Cover Membership for 48 euro annual fee, and then have always emergency help on the road and a guarantee for the continuation of the journey without any further charges in all incidents defined in the Assistance Cover.

Voluntary road patrols are active in several fields

Voluntary road patrols have many irons in the fire. There is a good cooperation with authorities and entrepreneurs of the branch. Road patrol men organize imposing traffic safety campaigns and other actions. The voluntary road service is still part of the Voluntary Rescue Service (Vapepa), within which volunteers help authorities in searching people who have gone lost, assist in giving first aid or by guiding the traffic. It is widely known in Finland that the voluntary road patrol men participate in several traffic safety actions, Autoliitto courses and wide-ranging training activities.