Safety is always a topical issue, and all evidence shows that preparedness and risk management will be one of the next megatrends– one which Kata Safety Oy from Joensuu is following closely. The company is on a growth path to become a national specialist in civil defence.

Kata Safety is an expert in civil defence and fire and radiation safety. The company’s service range includes the inspections and annual maintenance of civil defence shelters, as well as the manufacture of portable KATA® radiation detectors and periodic inspections of all radiation meters. Kata Safety also examines and installs firestops on properties.

Strong combination of competence

Janne Rahunen from Kata Safety became an entrepreneur in 2016, when he discovered an opportunity to combine his training as an electrician, his expertise in industrial automation and the sales of electrical equipment, and his passionate hobby of serving as a contract firefighter.

His idea also hit the mark in view of what entrepreneurship experts hold as a prerequisite for success: a start-up must be able to provide its customers with added value for which there is genuine market demand. In the case of Kata Safety, that added value is making everyday life easier for property owners and operators who provide them with services, including real estate managers, maintenance companies, property managers and company safety managers.

– Demands related to safety and preparedness come from many different directions. The workload and responsibilities of our customers are increasing constantly. Our goal is to help, guide and assist them in taking on that responsibility, says Kata Safety CEO Janne Rahunen.

The 72-hour rule

According to Finnish legislation, a property of more than 1,200 square metres must have a civil defence shelter. Civil defence shelters are needed to provide people with safety in crisis situations – such as protection against the effects of explosions and splinters, collapse of buildings, pressure waves, chemical warfare agents and ionizing radiation. At present, there are approximately 50,000 civil defence shelters in Finland. Around 87 per cent of these are private shelters built in residential, commercial or industrial buildings.

In normal conditions, civil defence shelters can be used for other purposes, including as recreational spaces. Under the law, the precondition for this is that in a crisis situation the shelter can be emptied and taken into use within 72 hours. This is possible if the facilities are properly equipped and regularly serviced. The law states that the property owners are responsible for the maintenance, inspections and air-tightness tests of the civil defence shelters. Despite the legal requirements, Finland has a large number of civil defence shelters in which the maintenance measures have not been carried out. An unserviced civil defence shelter is not only a safety issue, but, at worst, also a significant expense item. There is too little awareness of the duties, or the issue is lost among other more pressing matters.

Right questions, justified answers

Kata Safety has assumed its place as an emissary of preparedness. The message has been received with joy – we just needed to start asking the right questions, says Joni Rahunen, head of Kata Safety’s Jyväskylä office.

– What issues should property owners or property administrators consider in connection with civil defence shelters? What does the law say? Why is preparedness important now and in the future? The need for preparedness and civil protection is not going to disappear – on the contrary. Proper maintenance of civil defence shelters is essential – and having upkeep as part of the property maintenance programme also saves money.

Joni Rahunen became a shareholder in Kata in February 2020. As a result of the partnership, the company expanded its operations to the Jyväskylä region. Joni Rahunen, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management and has previously worked in facility management, has brought his expertise in service design and digitalisation to the development of Kata Safety.

– During this past spring, extensive development work has been carried out at the customer interface. The market need for services is obvious; customers are yearning for information. We have been listening to our customers’ needs and found that the repeatedly emerging topics are life cycle thinking and cost-effectiveness, the ease of obtaining services and the need to make everyday life easier for the customers, Joni Rahunen summarises.

Strategy for growth!

Janne Rahunen founded the company Suomen Turvaympyrä in 2016. From the very beginning, the company focused on inspections of civil defence shelters. In 2018, the company was offered a massive opportunity for growth, as the retiring entrepreneur couple of Kata-Electronics in Ylämylly was looking for someone to take over their business specialised in the manufacture of radiation meters. Rahunen became interested in the business acquisition and asked Business Specialist Jouko Piirainen at Business Joensuu for advice.

– I had been considering growth and making calculations. I realised that radiation safety services are an excellent match for civil defence shelter services. The deal was made, and in 2019 Suomen Turvaympyrä and Kata-Electronics were merged into Kata Safety Oy under the same KATA® brand.

The fact that Janne Rahunen’s wife, Elina Rahunen, had extensive quality management experience from Perlos also played a key role in giving Janne the courage to complete the business acquisition. After Perlos, she worked in customer service at OP-Services Ltd. At Kata Safety, Elina Rahunen is responsible for the production and inspections of KATA® radiation meters.

Next, the cooperation with Business Joensuu was concretised in the growth coaching programme that started in 2019. The intensive phase of the coaching lasted for around ten weeks, but the cooperation continues still.

– Brand building, encouraging leadership, self-management, strategy work and mutual sparring between the companies involved in the growth programme. These are all issues that we and many other companies struggle with on a daily basis. For us, the support provided by Business Joensuu has been crucial. We have received incredible support for our current strategy work from the growth coaching programme, Janne Rahunen rejoices.

Becoming a national operator

At Kata Safety Oy, growth and development work is carried out on many fronts, from the productisation of services to the product development of radiation meters. The goal is to grow into a national operator in the fields of civil defence and radiation and fire safety.

The company’s development and growth have been intense. In the previous fiscal year, the turnover was EUR 300,000. This year, the company is aiming at EUR 400,000.

– Kata Safety is following its growth path in a goal-oriented manner. The focus is on nation-wide services. To achieve this goal, Kata Safety will have to come up with a model to employ more workers in the future.

“We have received incredible support for our current strategy work from Business Joensuu’s growth coaching programme”

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen, Viestintä-Ässä