When a loved one goes missing

Volunteers wearing the Voluntary Rescue Service vests taking part in a search practice in a forest in winter.
Photo: Joonas Brandt / Suomen Punainen Risti

If your loved one goes missing, call 112.

When an elderly person with a memory disorder or a berry picker in the forest gets lost, it can cause immense worry in their loved ones and fill them with questions.

When a person goes missing, it is important to stay as calm as possible and seek help quickly. You can get the help you need by calling the general emergency number 112.

Searching for missing persons is the responsibility of the authorities: the police is responsible inland and in inland waterways and the Finnish Border Guard at sea. The authorities start the search if it is suspected that the missing person’s life is in danger, they have been in an accident or become the victim of a crime, or if the missing person is unable to take care of themselves for some reason. If a large number of searchers is required, the authorities can request the support of the Voluntary Rescue Service Vapepa coordinated by the Finnish Red Cross.

If your loved one goes missing

  • Try to stay as calm as possible. This allows you to come up with things that can help in finding the missing person.

  • Contact the emergency number 112 immediately. The sooner you call the emergency response centre, the quicker the police can start search preparations and call for assistance as needed. The search will not incur costs to the reporter, the missing person or their family.
  • Tell everything that you know about the situation and possible reason for the disappearance to the emergency response centre and the police. Try to remember where the missing person was last seen and what they were doing.

    Even when telling something feels difficult for one reason or another, it is best to tell everything. The emergency response centre, the police and volunteers taking part in the search all agree to secrecy.

    The following information can be helpful in directing the search:
    • personal information and photo of the missing person
    • clothing and other identifiers
    • time and place of the disappearance
    • what the person was doing or where they were going when they disappeared
    • likely paths and mode of transport
    • state of health
    • which places have already been searched for the missing person
    • has the person gone missing before, and if they have, where were they found.

Call the emergency number 112 immediately, even if you do not know the answer to all the above. There is time to gather further information during the search.

  • It is important to search the place where the person went missing and its immediate environment particularly carefully. A child, for example, can sometimes be hiding in a surprising place at home. If a search is started, the police usually carries out a local search that can be performed more than once during the search.

  • Call the friends, colleagues and hobby mates of the missing person to ask about them.

  • It is normal that a loved one going missing causes strong emotions and reactions. Do not hesitate to ask for help for yourself.

During the search

During the search, follow the instructions from the police. If you come up with additional information or receive new information, forward it to the police leading the search. They can make sure that any necessary information reaches the searchers.

The police may request you to stay at home. This is because a missing person can return home without knowing they are being searched for. Let the police know immediately if a missing person returns home.


Information: Vapepa leader Heikki Maukonen

The Red Cross – Help finding missing family members
The Red Cross – Help finding missing family members