Civil protection

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International civil protection symbol
Joint disaster control exercise by the fire brigade and medical personnel

Disaster control ( KatS ) are the measures that are taken to protect life, health or the environment in or before a disaster occurs . All measures of disaster and civil defense , which serve to prevent threats to the civilian population, the term Civil Protection summarized.

In addition to immediate operations and assistance , this includes preparatory measures, such as the establishment of appropriate auxiliary facilities and plans or the establishment of standard operational rules (SER) for rapid reaction in the same situations, the defense against damage in the event of a disaster and the removal of disaster damage .

Development of civil protection

Law on the Agreement on the Establishment of a World Aid Association (1929, Germany)

Protection for the civilian population in times of war was not a special issue in the time of the established battle formation ( warfare ) and also the trench warfare of the First World War , as the majority of the population of a country was not affected by the battles, which often took place in remote areas, or this protection was simply not was taken seriously enough.

Even the supply in the event of natural disasters was initially rarely organized. The rural population had to and could help themselves. In the cities, fighting damage incidents was the responsibility of the local authorities, who set up auxiliary troops, for example in the form of a fire brigade, or provided medical help (as in the case of a plague epidemic ) and the supply of food.

First aid organizations in the 19th century

Preventive protective measures were taken with the increasing organization of the community, including fire extinguishing regulations or measures to protect against floods (drainage channels, dykes ).

The Red Cross , founded in 1863 as a neutral aid organization for times of war, soon performed its duties in the event of civil accidents and disasters. During this time, the formation of further aid associations and the professionalization of fire extinguishing together with the increasing assumption of responsibility of the state power for the common good also fall. With the industrialization of an increase of greater industrial accidents is connected to the establishment of specific labor organizations (eg, the early, especially in the industrial areas Workers' Samaritan Federation led).

Supraregional disaster relief was initially often organized by the military , which was the only organization with units that could be deployed accordingly. In such situations, the civil emergency services were primarily responsible for collecting donations and relief supplies.

Development after 1945

The Second World War made the targeted organization of large-scale aid measures necessary in the affected countries (for example during the Battle of Britain or the aerial warfare ). The units of the fire brigades, civil rescue organizations and the military had to be coordinated supraregionally, and in some cases separate organizational forms were set up as air protection .

Under the influence of the Second World War, the Geneva Conventions were revised in 1949 and supplemented with the fourth agreement “on the protection of civilians in times of war”. In addition to the previously agreed protective symbols , the new civil protection symbol , a blue triangle on an orange background, was also introduced.

The hot phase of the Cold War began with the Korean War in 1950 . Under this impression, modern civil protection measures were advanced in many countries, which also had an impact on the civil protection organization. Attempts have been made to counteract the effects of weapons of mass destruction . Above all, the historically new possibility of nuclear war was in mind.

International cooperation in disaster control increased, both as a result of military alliances ( NATO , Warsaw Pact ) with similar equipment and procedures in the allied countries as well as at the civil or administrative level or within the framework of the United Nations ( United Nations Disaster Relief Organization 1971) or of the organizations of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement .

In the course of development aid, disaster control measures are also promoted in many countries in order to be able to survive regular natural disasters.

After 1989/90

In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War led to a major dismantling of disaster and civil protection in Europe, as the need was largely no longer seen. Responsibility for protective measures has been transferred to lower levels of administration or to voluntary projects. Since it was quickly recognized that there could still be situations that could overwhelm the normal rescue service ( e.g. natural disasters or, in certain countries, nuclear power plant and chemical accidents ), attempts were made with relatively limited resources to take preparatory measures (e.g. hazard zone planning ) and assistants Also to be kept for larger damage situations.

After the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and the cross-border flood events around the turn of the millennium ( Oder flood 1997 , Elbe flood 2002 ), this development began to reverse. Civil protection was again seen in a larger context, this time detached from the military aspect.

With the decision of the Council of the European Union of 23 October 2001 on a Community procedure to promote enhanced cooperation in civil protection operations (2001/792 / EC, Euratom ), a procedure for mutual assistance in the event of disasters was established at EU level. If necessary, the member states have the option of activating the EU's disaster relief mechanism and requesting resources from community members.

Important parts of international disaster risk management and the organization of international aid after disasters and war relate to the protection of cultural property and the cultural heritage of a community. National and international coordination with regard to military and civil structures for the protection of cultural assets in the event of disasters is carried out by UNESCO together with Blue Shield International . The aim is not to protect a person's property, but rather to preserve the cultural heritage of humanity. Protection is to be implemented effectively, particularly by involving the local population. Karl von Habsburg , President of Blue Shield International, summed this up with the words: “Without the local community and without the local participants, that would be completely impossible”.

Current challenges: decline in membership and recruitment problems

With the decline in the population, the aging of society and shrinking cohorts of people in younger and middle age groups ( demographic change ) as well as the elimination of alternative service in civil protection, problems with recruiting young people are becoming more and more entrenched. For example, the Federal Institute for Population Research is forecasting a decline in the number of members of the voluntary fire brigades and rescue services alone by a quarter by the year 2025. The recruitment problems are additionally exacerbated by a discrepancy between the structural requirements of the aid organizations and the individual needs and possibilities of potential volunteers. While the aid organizations focus primarily on continuous engagement and demand high qualification requirements from their members, the trend in the population is more towards episodic, project-related forms of engagement ("structural change in voluntary work ").

Advance exploration

The Emergency Response Team (also: Incident response team ) of an organization or an authority can be deployed before the actual helpers arrive to explore the scope and locations of the helpers and to prepare them in cooperation with already active helpers, for example the local helpers. This applies regularly before aid missions to be coordinated internationally. In addition to specialists, depending on the emergency situation, these teams are primarily composed of logisticians who can estimate how far the existing infrastructure, for example an airport, can still be used or whether it is necessary to set up an infrastructure for the emergency services that is independent of the location.

Monitoring of natural hazards

In the case of numerous natural hazards , mathematical models and technical measures can be used to make a certain forecast; sometimes an event can also be averted. Such dangers include a .:

  • Tsunami after a seaquake: if the distance from the epicenter is greater , a warning can be given to affected coastal areas in good time. Warning services were set up in the Pacific and some other regions after the great 2004 tsunami
  • Earthquake : here at best very uncertain prognoses of the point in time are possible; those for aftershocks are a little more accurate
  • Floods : modern forecasting methods process precipitation and water level measurements on the basis of runoff models and digital terrain heights . The calculated water levels are accurate to a decimeter in good models
  • Rockslides can usually only be forecast if previous events have already taken place and monitoring measurements are carried out continuously using geotechnical engineering
  • Landslides can be easily predicted on “suspicious” mountain slopes if geotechnical engineering and geodesy install permanent monitoring networks and an automatic flow of data also takes place on the current precipitation
  • In the case of mudslides and avalanches , such forecasts are less reliable, but potential hazards can be given.
  • Pandemics : in pandemic prevention , previously unknown potential pathogens could be identified, reported and their possible evolution predicted using mathematical modeling, diagnostic, communication and information technologies . Several approaches enable a potential pandemic to be averted.

Disaster control in Germany


After the fire brigades and the German Red Cross were deployed in the German Empire in addition to military auxiliary commands in major incidents, the technical emergency aid relieved the Reichswehr , which was heavily armored in terms of numbers and equipment , during the Weimar Republic . During the time of National Socialism , these auxiliary services also formed the core of disaster control in civil air protection, at that time the Security and Aid Service (SHD), known as the Air Protection Police from July 1942 . From 1944 onwards, commercial kitchen ships were established in large cities with navigable canals or rivers.

After the Second World War , the victorious powers banned all air protection measures in 1946. The German Basic Law of May 23, 1949 did not contain any provisions on the defense or protection of the population in armed conflicts or on the management of politico-military crises.

In view of the threat posed by the Cold War, however, the reconstruction of civil protection in Germany soon began. In the Federal Republic of Germany , the Technical Relief Organization was founded in 1950 , the Federal Office for Civil Civil Protection and the Air Protection Aid Service for civil defense in 1956 .

It was made possible for conscripts , instead of their basic military service, to undertake a multi-year commitment in an organization active in disaster control (in particular volunteer fire brigades , technical relief organization , German Red Cross , Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe , Malteser Hilfsdienst , Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund and Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs Society ).

During the 1980s under Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann , however, consideration was given to stopping the admission of new disaster protection workers to medical units because there were doubts about the effectiveness of these disaster protection trains. After reunification , the uniform requirements for disaster control were given up and left to the federal states. In the course of this, disaster control mostly declined locally and was seen as unnecessary. A major turning point was the abandonment of the nationwide civil protection siren network in 1993 with the dismantling of 40,000 sirens and the closure of the warning offices .

Occasional large-scale incidents ( flight conference accident at Ramstein in 1988, ICE accident at Eschede in 1998) left the issue in the consciousness of those responsible, but the use of large units was no longer common, rather small flexible units were set up ( rapid response groups ).

With the new threat from terrorism , the major flood disasters and in conjunction with the 2006 soccer World Cup , a rethink took place: The disaster control was redesigned, characterized by the establishment of plans for supraregional assistance, the re-establishment of a federal authority specifically responsible for the area ( Federal Office for Civil protection and disaster relief , instead of the Federal Office for Civil Protection, which was dissolved in 2001 ) and equipping units to provide aid on a larger scale ( Medical Task Force ).

Since 2004, the joint management of the federal government and the federal states in national crises due to exceptional danger and damage situations has been improved at a strategic level through the regular LÜKEX exercise .


Defense in the event of a disaster is the task of the federal states in accordance with Article 70 of the Basic Law . However, there is no longer a rigid distinction between civil protection and disaster protection. The interior ministers and interior senators of the federal states have agreed on an integrated hazard defense system together with the Federal Minister of the Interior . This means that the federal and state governments contribute their skills and abilities to civil protection that takes into account all causes of damage. They are advised by the Protection Commission at the Federal Ministry of the Interior .

For the purposes of civil protection and disaster relief , the federal government provides the federal states with funds that they can integrate into their peace-based disaster control. In addition, the federal government expands and supplements the disaster control of the federal states through the establishment of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW).

Structure of civil protection

The structure is the country legally regulated and varies from state to state. For example, the disaster control units and facilities in Saarland are divided into the following specialist services:

  1. Fire protection and technical assistance ,
  2. NBC protection ,
  3. Rescue and technical service (carried out by THW ),
  4. Medical services (with a medical task force as a core element),
  5. Veterinary ,
  6. Care (temporary accommodation and social care),
  7. Information and communication technology (telecommunications train with nationwide responsibility),
  8. Supply (especially food),
  9. Water rescue (especially in flood situations, reinforced by vehicles and equipment from the THW) and
  10. Emergency psychosocial care .

In the event of an attack on Germany or in the event of a defense

In the event of an attack on the Federal Republic of Germany with armed force or a corresponding direct threat ( case of defense ), the federal government is responsible for the protection of the civilian population ( civil defense ) under Article 73 of the Basic Law and assigned to the Federal Ministry of the Interior as a part of civil defense .

In the event of a nuclear disaster

In nuclear emergency protection, the federal government does not have any competences in terms of immediate danger prevention, which includes evacuation as a possible measure. The federal government has, however, "Framework recommendations for disaster control in the vicinity of nuclear facilities" as well as the "Radiological basis for decisions on measures to protect the population in the event of accidental releases of radionuclides" (in the version of October 27, 2008; GMBl. 2008, No. 62/63, p. 1278 ff.) As a radiological basis for decisions about disaster control measures. The responsible state authorities have access to the RODOS decision support system ( Real-time On-line DecisiOn Support ), which is operated in the so-called RODOS headquarters in the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). The federal states can either use the system themselves or commission the RODOS headquarters to carry out invoices for accident events. In nuclear emergencies, RODOS is used to carry out dispersion calculations, to estimate environmental contamination and radiation exposure, and to prepare decisions for protective measures. The basis of the dispersion calculation is the source term, i.e. the amount of released material, as well as the measured local dose rate, which is determined in Germany by the ODL measuring network with around 1,800 probes, and the air movements at different heights derived from weather forecasts by the German Meteorological Service .


Orange disaster control vehicle ( DMF from Magirus-Deutz )
Bell 212 rescue helicopter procured by the
BMI for disaster control

In Germany, various organizations are involved in disaster control. Badges of honor for civil protection are awarded for long service periods, for special services in disaster control or for particularly courageous behavior in disaster situations . These decorations often include the extensive area of ​​non-police hazard prevention such as disaster control, civil protection and rescue services and are donated by the federal states responsible for hazard prevention in the event of a disaster. The Hessian Minister of the Interior donated the "Abroad" medal on May 23, 2014 as an award to honor merits in disaster control operations of the State of Hesse abroad.

Public facilities

Private and municipal organizations

BMI in air rescue

The Federal Ministry of the Interior in Germany (BMI) has been operating rescue helicopters since 1971 . The Federal Ministry of the Interior provides the federal states that are responsible for the rescue service in their area with the helicopters actually intended for disaster control for use in air rescue. The helicopters are therefore equally available for normal everyday rescue services and disaster cases. The BMI is one of the leading German air rescue operators with a fleet of 16 helicopters of the type EC135 T2 at 12 locations nationwide (2012).

Other civil protection organizations

In addition, there are emergency services from NGOs , such as from companies (such as the mine rescue service in mining ), private clubs, authorities and associations. Depending on the local legal situation, private individuals and companies can also spontaneously organize themselves to help in disaster relief (cf. EMON , Emergent Organization Networks) or be called in to do so.

Crisis centers for disaster victims - like the Eric (Emergency Response and Information Center, since 1999) at Frankfurt Airport - there are only a few in Germany and most of them are state-run facilities. The Eric has managed around a dozen major emergencies since its inception . The events after the seaquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004 are particularly remembered, when many traumatized holidaymakers and bereaved relatives, who often only had beach sandals, landed helplessly in Frankfurt, were looked after and cared for and, above all , had to be protected from sensation-hungry reporters . A global model, also for the Epic (since 1994 in Munich), is the British Airways Emergency Procedures Information Center of the same name at London 's Heathrow Airport .

Radio amateurs are legally obliged to provide their specialist knowledge, knowledge and skills as well as equipment for setting up and supporting communication links in the event of a disaster. This is known as emergency radio or disaster radio . In addition to stationary radio systems, many radio amateurs also have mobile systems that enable voice, data and image communication around the world, including communication via their own satellites , even in the event of a power failure . The Hamburg storm surge in 1962 is an example of such an operation .

Self protection

The ability to help oneself is a cornerstone of civil protection. The disaster sociology is a special sociology that deals with the social aspects of disasters. Preppers are people who prepare individually for any catastrophe: by storing food supplies, erecting protective structures or protective devices on existing buildings, keeping protective clothing, tools, radio equipment, and weapons available.

Alternative service in disaster control instead of military or community service

In Germany, one could be exempted from military or community service if one committed to civil or disaster protection for at least four years (since December 1, 2010) before military service was suspended in July 2011 . This was based on Section 13a of the Compulsory Military Service Act and Section 14 of the Civil Service Act . The conscript had to prove a minimum number of service hours annually. Each unit received a certain number of jobs to be allocated.

Gaps in Disaster Risk Reduction

After the Elbe flood in 2002, the precautionary measures in disaster control in Germany were critically examined. A lack of means of communication , inconsistent management structures and insufficient capacities in emergency medical care have now been assessed differently.

The third hazard report of the Protection Commission at the Federal Minister of the Interior from 2006 names massive gaps in disaster risk management. The five most important gaps would therefore be in the areas of mobilizing self-help potential in the population , protecting critical infrastructures , alerting and continuously informing the population , organizations, supply and aftercare in the medical field , general institutional organization of emergency care and the supply of food and drinking water .

In the public this has so far only been problematized selectively, for example in a ZDF report 2004 on the scenario for “Day X” or in the preparations for the 2006 soccer World Cup.

In view of the refugee crisis , the German Red Cross demanded in August 2015 that disaster control be geared more closely to the specific needs of people.

Disaster control in Austria

The Ministry of the Interior is responsible as the highest authority in Austria , while the individual civil organizations that are involved in disaster control work on the basis of state law.

Depending on the damage situation, a certain area can be declared a disaster area. Depending on the extent, a mayor , district captain or governor can declare the disaster.

The disaster control legislation is the responsibility of the individual federal states . With this, certain emergency laws come into force to get the effects under control.

First and foremost, the fight against disasters is the task of the fire brigade with the disaster relief services and rescue organizations they organize and thus rests mainly on volunteer organizations. But the armed forces can also be called upon to provide assistance. In order to be able to involve volunteers among the civilian population, the Austria team was founded in 2007 under the direction of the Red Cross and the ORF .

The management of the disaster relief takes place in the operational-tactical as well as in the administrative respect within the framework of the operational management and coordination committees at the district and state level. In supra-regional and cross-border disaster cases, administrative measures are coordinated within the framework of the state crisis and disaster control management at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and in individual cases also by the Federal Chancellery. If people are affected by a catastrophe abroad, the assistance is one of the tasks of the Foreign Ministry .

The Federal Warning Center in the Federal Ministry of the Interior serves as a permanent point of contact. The cooperation with the federal states and the necessary exchange of information takes place via state warning centers .

With the decision of the federal government of January 20, 2004, a coordination committee for the state crisis and disaster control management was set up, which includes all federal ministries and federal states as well as emergency organizations and media under the chairmanship of the director general for public security .

Austria thus has a comprehensive system of preventive and defensive disaster control ( state crisis and disaster control management, SKKM ). In addition, Austria is integrated into the international networks of cross-border disaster relief of the EU, NATO / PfP and the United Nations and has signed bilateral agreements with numerous countries for mutual aid in disaster cases, which can be used if necessary. One example of this is the now dissolved unit CRAFT Austria , an internationally deployable force made up of fire brigade, police and Johanniter accident assistance.

Disaster control in Switzerland

Civil Protection in the USA

In the USA , the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible. In addition, various authorities are concerned with different aspects of disaster protection, for example the United States Geological Survey is developing disaster scenarios such as the Arkstorm scenario. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) deal with epidemics and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) deals with environmental disasters caused by pipelines , which even has a fusion center , the National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center (IAFC Hazmat Center) ) operates.

Civil protection in other countries

Almost all states have organizations responsible for disaster protection against disasters , at least in rudimentary form. Poor countries or countries with unstable political conditions are often dependent on help from other countries (from Germany, for example, from the Federal Agency for Technical Relief ) and international non-governmental institutions and organizations such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement when a disaster occurs .

UN civil protection

EU civil protection

Since Lisbon, Article 196 TFEU (Promotion of Cooperation between Member States) has provided the EU with a new policy / determination of competencies in civil protection:

  • Support and complement activities at national, regional and local level with a view to
    • Risk prevention
    • education
    • Calls
  • Promotion of fast and efficient cooperation between the individual bodies
  • Improving the coherence of policies at international level

This policy falls under Art. 6 lit. f) TFEU (support, coordination and complementary competence). Because of this limitation of competencies and the principle of subsidiarity , this policy can only be considered if the Member States are overwhelmed by the catastrophic situation. The Union's competence limit is also exceeded if an emergency response capacity is based on Art. 196 TFEU that is independent of the decisions of the (sovereign) member states. The EU must not operate an independent civil protection system or push the member states out of their role as those responsible for civil protection.

Examples of civil protection

  • Taiwan has been practicing highly efficient disaster control with regard to typhoons for decades . Even with the strongest typhoons in Taiwan, few people are killed or injured. Personal injury is mostly due to failure to follow the instructions of the authorities.
  • The National Pandemic Plan for Germany and the pandemic plans derived from it for the German federal states and municipalities name measures that can help prevent and combat the risk of a massive spread of communicable diseases ( epidemic or pandemic ).


Web links

Commons : Civil Protection  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Portal: Disaster Protection  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of disaster protection
Wiktionary: civil protection  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Action plan to preserve heritage sites during conflict. In: . April 12, 2019, accessed May 17, 2020.
  2. Protecting cultural assets - Karl von Habsburg on a mission in Lebanon. In: April 28, 2019, accessed June 27, 2020 .
  3. Jyot Hosagrahar: Culture: at the heart of SDGs. UNESCO courier, April – June 2017.
  4. ^ Rick Szostak: The Causes of Economic Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Springer Science & Business Media, 2009, ISBN 9783540922827 .
  5. cf. Isabelle-Constance von Opalinski shots on civilization in FAZ from August 20, 2014; Hans Haider Misuse of cultural goods is a criminal offense . In: Wiener Zeitung of June 29, 2012.
  6. Ralf Mai, Frank Swiaczny: Demographic Development - Potentials for Civic Engagement. Federal Institute for Population Research, 2008, accessed on May 20, 2020 .
  7. iso-Report No. 3 - Perspectives of volunteering in civil and disaster control. Institute for Social Research and Social Economy (iso) e. V., November 2014, accessed on May 25, 2020 .
  8. Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance - Warning the population. Retrieved September 13, 2018 .
  9. Saarland Official Gazette, Part I, p. 400. (PDF 1.7 MB) Section 1 Paragraph 2 of the Ordinance on the Organization of Disaster Management in Saarland of October 13, 2014. Head of the Saarland State Chancellery, November 6, 2014, accessed on November 30 , 2014 May 2020 .
  10. Decree on the foundation of a mission medal “Abroad” of May 22, 2014, Business and Ordinance Gazette of the State of Hesse.
  11. Summary of 3rd Hazard Report. In: 2006, accessed February 28, 2020 .
  12. Frank Specht, Till Hoppe: Debate about the refugee crisis - Red Cross calls for new disaster control. In: August 9, 2015, accessed May 11, 2020 .
  13. Disaster control in Austria and Salzburg. State of Salzburg, accessed on January 14, 2020 .
  14. Summary of the Arkstorm scenario of the US Geological Survey from: Keith Porter, Anne Wein, Charles Alpers, Allan Baez, Patrick Barnard, James Carter, Alessandra Corsi, James Costner, Dale Cox, Tapash Das, Michael Dettinger, James Done, Charles Eadie , Marcia Eymann, Justin Ferris, Prasad Gunturi, Mimi Hughes, Robert Jarrett, Laurie Johnson, Hanh Dam Le-Griffin, David Mitchell, Suzette Morman, Paul Neiman, Anna Olsen, Suzanne Perry, Geoffrey Plumlee, Martin Ralph, David Reynolds, Adam Rose, Kathleen Schaefer, Julie Serakos, William Siembieda, Jonathan Stock, David Strong, Ian Sue Wing, Alex Tang, Pete Thomas, Ken Topping, directed by Chris Wills and Lucile Jones; Project manager Dale Cox (201) Overview of the Arkstorm scenario: US Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1312 , 183 pages plus attachments
  15. US Department of Health and Human Services: Information Sharing ( Memento of October 21, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 311 kB) of the Centers for Disease-Control (CDC) with guidelines for the exchange of information, accessed on December 1, 2011.
  16. About. Hazmat's About Us page. In: Retrieved May 22, 2020 (English).
  17. see also Taifun-Site of the State Weather Bureau (English)