Civil defense (Germany)

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International civil protection symbol

In Germany we mean by civil defense a special form of civil protection , the only defense or voltage drop is used. It therefore differs from disaster control , which applies to all other major disaster situations that require special uniform management by the authorities. In addition to protecting the population, the protection of cultural property in crisis situations is also relevant, and this is also regulated internationally.


Civil defense bunker in 1975
Auxiliary hospital exercise for civil defense, 1989

In Germany, civil defense is understood to mean all non-military measures in the event of defense or voltage, which serve to protect the population as well as to maintain the public infrastructure.

So that it differs by definition, and especially with regard to the constitutional responsibilities of civil protection . These are fundamentally different issues and areas of responsibility: According to Article 73 No. 1 of the Basic Law (GG), civil protection belongs to the exclusive legislative competence of the federal government on "defense including the protection of the civilian population". It is a sub-area of civil defense for which the Federal Ministry of the Interior is responsible. The peace-based disaster control, on the other hand, falls under the jurisdiction of the federal states in accordance with Art. 30 , Art .

Whether this separation should be retained for the future is increasingly being questioned. For example, the then Federal Minister of the Interior Otto Schily said in 2005 at the Interschutz trade fair in Hanover that the "formerly strict separation between civil protection in the event of a defense on the one hand and disaster control for non-military dangers on the other" was "outdated". This becomes particularly clear with the question of the classification of terrorist threats. In practice, the distinction is largely meaningless, as the resources made available by the federal government in the context of civil protection can be used by the federal states in disaster control as it were their own resources.

At this point, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) as a federal emergency organization should also be noted . It is subordinate to the Federal Ministry of the Interior and takes on civil protection tasks in the event of a defense. The THW is nevertheless available for peaceful disaster control. The legislature provides in the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Act that the THW must be requested beforehand by a body responsible for hazard prevention (such as the federal states, districts, cities and municipalities).

In addition, it is currently in the political discussion to move the previous legal, but by no means clear, limits of responsibilities towards one another and to master large-scale danger situations in coordination between the federal government and the states. Especially recently (natural disasters, risk of terrorist attacks) there has been movement in reform considerations. In the above Art. 61 of the First Additional Protocol already suggests an expanded "civil protection" term ("hostilities or catastrophes") which could help to reduce the separation (which only exists in Germany) between civil protection as a federal and disaster protection as a national competence, in order to create a better functioning overall system of hazard prevention and civil protection, also with regard to generally scarce financial resources.

In other countries (e.g. Denmark or Finland) it is sometimes legally delimited differently. Internationally, the establishment of civil protection measures is the task of the International Civil Defense Organization . Legal bases for civil protection include: a. the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Act (ZSKG) and the so-called security laws (e.g. for food provision, transport organization).

At the federal level, the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) has been responsible for civil protection since May 1, 2004 . The BBK is therefore also responsible for the maintenance of the 2,300 public civil protection bunkers in Germany. Further responsibilities lie with the federal states and municipalities . 18 vehicle types are procured by the BBK and handed over to the state authorities for further use.

Both public and private (partly “publicly dedicated”) aid organizations are operationally involved in civil protection . In addition to the public fire brigades, which are usually organized at community level, the public organizations include the Federal Agency for Technical Relief. Private organizations involved in civil protection are:

Insofar as other organizations are involved in disaster protection, they are also involved in civil protection.

See also


  • Martin Diebel: Nuclear War and Other Disasters. Civil protection and disaster control in the Federal Republic and Great Britain after 1945 . Paderborn 2017.
  • Wolfram Geier: Between War Scenarios and Peace-Time Disaster Response. On the development of civil defense in the Federal Republic of Germany with special consideration of civil defense and its reforms before and after the end of the Cold War . Marburg 2003.
  • Sascha Rolf Lüder: On the relationship between humanitarian international law and civil protection of the population in the light of the fight against international terrorism , in: Humanitarian Völkerrecht - Informationsschriften 18.1 (2005) pp. 38–41.
  • Flemming S. Nielsen: Civil Defense in International Humanitarian Relief Work, seen in the light of the Geneva Conventions , in: Journal of Refugee Studies 9 (1996) pp. 421-430.

Web links

Wiktionary: civil defense  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : civil defense  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. § 12 Law on Civil Protection and Disaster Aid of the Federal Government (Civil Protection and Disaster Aid Act - ZSKG) - § 12 Principle of Disaster Aid
  2. in the version of April 2, 2009 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 693 )
  3. Civil defense vehicles and equipment accessed on April 3, 2017