EU Civil Protection Mechanism

The European tool to provide immediate response to civil protection emergencies in the international arena

L'Aquila, 2009 - Esperti europei impegnati in attività di valutazione del danno dopo il terremoto del 6 aprile

The Civil Protection Mechanism - established in 2001 and reformed several times - coordinates the European response to natural and man-made disasters. Among its objectives are the promotion of cooperation between national civil protection authorities and the strengthening of public awareness and risk preparedness.

The Mechanism consists of a voluntary pool of resources pre-committed by Member States to be deployed immediately within or outside the Union and ensure in case of emergency a rapid, effective and coordinated assistance to the affected populations. The operational heart of the Mechanism is the Emergency Response Coordination Centre: active 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to coordinate the European response to disasters.

At the European level, Civil Protection is embedded in the Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection of the European Commission and counts the membership of 34 countries: in addition to the 28 member countries of the European Union, Iceland, Norway, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

On March 7, 2019, the Council adopted a decision to amend the Mechanism with the aim of further strengthening the resource pool, training, and risk prevention.

Inside the European Union. When a participating state is unable to handle a large national emergency, it may request assistance from the other participating countries through the MIC, which receives the request and informs all the other countries involved. CECIS is responsible for communicating the request, allowing immediate dialogue between 24-hour operations centres in the various countries. The requests made by the affected country are matched by the system to offers of assistance from countries that decide to intervene. CECIS provides all the countries with information and updates on the emergency until it is resolved. The kind of intervention will vary depending on the event. The MIC then facilitates dispatch of assessment and/ or coordination teams, experts, civil protection modules and ensures co-funding of assistance transport offered by participating states, but management of aid is the responsibility of the state requesting intervention.

Outside the European Union. The Mechanism may be activated by an affected country with a request for assistance to the MIC. In these cases, the High Representative for foreign affairs and foreign policy together with the Presidency of the European Council coordinates the political response, in collaboration with the Commission. This guarantees links with the affected country, facilitating rapid deployment of community assistance, above all during the initial hours of the emergency.

If the United Nations are involved, they will assume management of operations. Activity is carried out by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department – ECHO in close collaboration with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs –OCHA.

Within the Mechanism Union, the Member States favor a coherent and effective approach in terms of prevention and disaster preparedness, through the sharing of non-sensitive information (information whose disclosure would be contrary to the essential interests of the security of the Member States), and the sharing of good practice. Moreover, the countries:

• carry out risk assessments at national or sub-national level and make available to the Commission a summary of the main points contained in them by 22 December 2015 and every three years;

• develop and refine their plans for managing disaster risks at national or sub-national level;

• make available to the Commission's assessment their ability of risk management at national or sub-national level every three years after the development of the relevant guidelines, and whenever there are major changes; and participate, on a voluntary basis, to the so-called "peer review" on the issue of assessing the ability of risk management.

Emergency Response Coordination Center - Ercc

The Reform maintains a sharp eye both within the borders of the European Union - EU, and towards non-European countries.

The monitoring of disaster or potential disaster situations is carried out by the Emergency Response and Coordination Centre - ERCC. The ERCC is the operational hub of the system, active 24/7, and provides countries with access to the CECIS - Common Emergency Communication and Information System: a Community platform able to communicate and exchange information between the ERCC and the national contact points of the Member States.

The ERCC also provides for the development of civil protection modules, intervention units composed of specialized personnel, means and equipment made available by the States, and "packaged" according to the function to be performed and according to specific criteria.
The ERCC also allows to fill possible gaps, even in the communication and transmission of information between countries.

Accordingly, the resolution establishes the obligation to notify in the case of emergencies with cross-border effects both to the countries that risk being damaged and also to the Commission. The reform follows up on prevention activities, allowing countries to better coordinate their response to disasters and to share, on a regular basis, risk assessment and mapping activities.
Through the ERCC it is possible to develop detection and early warning systems in case of disasters, and ensure support for access to resources for the development of specialized intervention units composed of personnel, means and equipment made available by member countries and "packaged" according to the function to be performed and according to specific criteria.

In order to ensure the flow of information, the ERCC in Brussels also manages the computer system Cecis - Common Emergency Communication and Information System, which allows an immediate and effective dialogue between the operational centers 24 hours a day of the Member States, with the task of facilitating communication between the ERCC and the National Authorities.

European Crisis Response Capacity - EERC

The new legislation establishes a voluntary pool of pre-committed forces that make up the European Emergency Response Capacity - EERC. Funded with resources from member states, the EERC consists of modules, other response assets and experts. The tools - evaluated by the European Commission - are available to the response operations within the Union Mechanism following a request for assistance forwarded through the Emergency Response Coordination Center - Ercc.


The Cecis - Common Emergency Communication and Information Centre - facilitates communication between the Mic and National Authorities.

It is an IT system run directly by the Mic in Brussels for immediate effective dialogue between 24/7 operations centres in Member States.

The requests made by the affected country are matched by the system to offers of assistance from countries that decide to intervene.

Cecis provides all the Member States with information and updates on the emergency until it is resolved.

In the framework of the training program, Italy joined the network of the European Civil Protection Training Centers. Since 2004, the European Commission offers the possibility to the civil protection experts of the participating countries to attend some training courses organized in Europe by the network of the European Civil Protection Training Centers.

The courses aim at training experts who will be able to participate in the Mechanism's assistance interventions, both in Europe and in third countries.
The European Commission runs a training program on emergency prevention, preparedness and response. The program includes joint courses and an expert exchange system.

The overall objective is to enhance coordination, compatibility and complementarity between countries' resources and to improve the skills of civil protection experts from participating states.
The joint training courses are aimed at civil protection experts who will be able to participate in Mechanism assistance interventions, both in Europe and in third countries.

The training courses are divided into three main levels: introductory, operational and management. The lessons, held in English, are both theoretical and practical, alternating frontal sessions with group work. There are also exercises, table top or field exercises, through which experts exercise their skills, competencies and knowledge by simulating working as members of an evaluation team and / or coordination mobilized within the Mechanism.

The courses, funded by the European Commission, are organized in Europe by a network of civil protection training centers, of which Italy is part.
Since June 2012, the Civil Protection Department is leader of the consortium formed together with the Emergency Planning College of the Cabinet Office of the United Kingdom, the Civil Protection of Croatia, the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna and the Society Studiare Sviluppo.

The consortium is engaged in the development and organization of introductory courses on the European Civil Protection Mechanism. For each cycle of one year, 5 courses are held in Italy - in Rome at the Higher School of the Interior Administration, 3 courses are carried out in the United Kingdom - in York at the Emergency Planning College of the Cabinet Office - and other 3 in Croatia - in Split at the Specialist Training Centre of the Croatian Civil Protection.

In the period 2009-2012, the Department participated in a similar European training initiative together with the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna of Pisa, leader of the consortium, and the Department of Fire Brigades, Public Rescue and Civil Defence.
The exchange of experts allows qualified civil protection personnel to deepen, share experiences and knowledge in specific sectors. Experts of national systems can be temporarily seconded to administrations of other countries participating in the Mechanism to have a direct experience and acquire a deeper knowledge of the operation and procedures of the civil protection system in force in the host country.

In this context, the Department takes care of the contacts with the organizers of the project exchange of experts, both for the candidatures of Italian experts and for those of foreign experts interested in coming to Italy.

The mechanism provides drills within the European Union, organized by the Member States with an economic contribution of the European Commission.
The drills carried out at Community level are designed as a test whose objective is to establish a common understanding for cooperation in civil protection interventions and to accelerate response during major emergencies. These drills provide a learning opportunity for all parties involved in operations coordinated by the mechanism and to strengthen operational cooperation between them. The planning for possible contingencies, decision-making procedures, the channels of communication to the public and the media can be tested during these simulations, to be ready in case of real emergency situations.

In addition, the drills are intended to highlight the need for additional training for staff involved and workshops on the lessons learned can serve as a forum for improving the operational process.

The following general actions aimed at strengthening the prevention, preparedness and the effectiveness of disaster response are eligible for financial assistance:

• studies, surveys, modeling and scenario building designed to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, best practices and information;

• training, exercises, workshops, exchange of staff and experts, creation of networks, demonstration projects and technology transfer;

• monitoring, evaluation and assessment;

• information, education and public awareness and related outreach activities designed to engage citizens in preventing and minimizing the effects of disasters in the Union and to put EU citizens to protect themselves more effectively and in a sustainable way;

• development and execution of a a program dedicated to the lessons learned from interventions and exercises in the framework of the Mechanism Union, even in areas relevant to prevention and preparedness;

• activities and communication measures aimed at increasing awareness of the work of civil protection in the Member States and the Union on disaster prevention, preparedness and response.

Eligible prevention and preparedness actions:

The following actions of prevention and preparedness are eligible for financial assistance if aimed at:

• co-financing projects, studies, workshops, surveys and actions and similar activities;

• co-financing the so-called "peer review" equivalent to assessment missions, carried out by experts in the field of risk management, in those States that voluntarily participating in the initiative;

• maintaining full functionality of ERCC;

• preparing the mobilization and sending teams of experts and develop and maintain a capacity through a network of experts trained for this purpose from the United States;

• creating and maintaining the CECIS and tools that enable communication and exchange of information between the ERCC and contact points of the Member States and other participants under the scheme Union;

• contributing to the development of transnational systems of detection, early warning and alert of European interest to allow a rapid response and to promote the interconnection between national systems of early warning and alarm systems and their connection with the ERCC and the CECIS. These systems take into account and are based on sources and information systems, monitoring or detection existing and future;

• planning response operations under the Mechanism Union;

• supporting preparation activities;

• identifying shortcomings of EERC and supporting Member States in addressing these shortcomings by co-funding new means of response, up to a maximum of 20% of eligible costs, provided that:

- The need for new means is confirmed from risk assessments;
- The process of identification of deficiencies (Article 12) must be demonstrated by the Member States that do not have such means and that such means are developed by the Member States either individually or in a consortium;
- a commitment of resources to the voluntary pool for a minimum period of two years;
- Co-financing of these means shall be cost effective.
- Where appropriate, preference is given to groups of Member States cooperating for a common risk;

• ensuring the availability of logistical support for teams of experts;

• facilitating coordination of prepositioning by the Member States, of the media response to disasters within the Union;

Eligible response actions:

In the event of activation of the mechanism, the following activities are eligible for financial assistance:

• sending teams of experts and related logistical support;

• co-financing of transport costs incurred by the Member States;

• adoption of other necessary complementary actions and support in order to facilitate thecoordination of the response as effectively as possible.