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Austria - Disaster management structure

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Overview

Austria has 9 provinces (Bundesländer, singular - Bundesland) with far-reaching autonomy: Burgenland, Kaernten (Carinthia), Niederoesterreich (Lower Austria), Oberoesterreich (Upper Austria), Salzburg, Steiermark (Styria), Tirol (Tyrol), Vorarlberg and Wien (Vienna). Each province has its own parliament and government, led by a provincial governor (Landeshauptmann).

The provinces are divided into 2,304 city and country municipalities.

Austria's political system is organised at three levels: 1) federal, 2) land/federal province/state, 3) municipality. In addition, there is a level of governance between the provinces and the municipalities known as districts (Bezirke). These are purely administrative bodies carrying out a number of Heads of State and Länder administrative duties at local level.

Austria is a federal republic and the Government is composed of the chancellor and the ministers. The President has primarily representative functions such as appointing the chancellor. The bicameral Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung) consists of the Federal Council (Bundesrat) and the National Council (Nationalrat). The Federal Council can delay bills approved by the National Council, but has no veto power.

The principle of federation is reflected in the fact that the federal provinces have their own authority in legislative matters (through the provincial parliaments) and administrative matters (with the provincial government being the highest authority) and that they are involved in federal legislation through the Federal Council (Bundesrat).

The responsibility for civil protection and crisis and disaster protection management lies with Department II/4 – Civil Protection, Crisis and Disaster Protection Management of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). The department is organised into two units: "International Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Affairs" and "National Crisis and Disaster Protection Management".

Should disasters affect several federal provinces at a time, or in fact the entire territory of Austria – as would be the case with accidents occurring in nuclear plants near the border or "large-scale events" within the EU or elsewhere in the international community of nations – coordination would invariably be conducted by this coordinating body.

Besides representatives from the ministries, this body also includes the officers responsible for disaster protection from the federal provinces. In the event of concrete relief tasks, the body even includes rescue services, fire brigades and other units and, if required, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation and the Austrian Press Agency.

In case of an emergency occurring in Austria or abroad, the Federal Alarm Centre of the MOI serves as an operational tool of coordination and information and becomes the single focal point for the federal provinces, neighbouring countries, the European Union and international organisations. The Federal Alarm Centre can operate 24 hours a day and take the appropriate initial steps. Preventive measures to protect from disasters fall within the responsibility of both the federal government and the provinces.

At regional level, competence is principally incumbent on the federal provinces. The regional alarm centres assume operational responsibility for the coordination of interventions. Under their special tasks, the federal authorities support the provinces in disaster relief operations. Operationally, the provinces rely chiefly on voluntary relief organisations.

Organisational chart

disaster management structure Austria

Legal basis

At national level

The civil protection structure in Austria is based on the Law on Federal Ministries as amended. On 20 January 2004, the Council of Ministers passed a resolution on the reorganisation of "National Crisis and Disaster Protection Management" establishing organisational details of the consolidation measure. The chief amendment concerns the consolidation of various coordinating bodies hitherto belonging to different units into this new coordinating committee chaired by the Director-General for Public Safety. The "Austrian platform for international humanitarian and emergency assistance" set up in 2000 was also incorporated into the new committee.

At regional level

Most of the measures to avert imminent, or to remove or alleviate the effects of past disasters (emergency assistance and disaster relief) are incumbent on the federal provinces. For that purpose, the provinces have adopted laws defining the management of interventions at community, district and regional levels, leaving the federal authorities with certain concomitant responsibilities.

Provision for disaster relief therefore lies primarily within the responsibilities of the federal provinces. First and foremost, this includes the organisation of disaster relief services and the furnishing of resources for emergency assistance and disaster relief measures.

In case of local emergencies, regional laws generally foresee official responsibility for relief measures and their management to rest with district administrations or mayors, while major disasters fall under the competences of regional administrations.

At international level

International intervention is governed by political agreements.

Bilateral agreements

Bilateral emergency agreements have been concluded with:

Bilateral agreements on "nuclear safety": In the field of nuclear safety and in addition to the IAEO agreement on early and immediate information as well as mutual assistance in the case of nuclear incidents, bilateral agreements with Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and the Ukraine are in force. Furthermore, a pertinent agreement with Switzerland was signed. The agreement completed with the Former German Democratic Republic is now applicable to the Federal Republic of Germany.

The same applies to the agreement completed with the former Czechoslovakia, which is now applicable to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In addition to the bilateral agreement with the Czech Republic on radiation protection, the so-called "Info-Hotline Temelin" was established providing immediate information of the "Bundeswarnzentrale" also in the case of marginal incidents, which are not subject of the "Bilateral Nuclear Information Agreement" ("Melker Abkommen", 12 December 2000).

As regards the agreements with the former Soviet Union, which are currently applicable to the Russian Federation and Tajikistan, preliminary talks are held with Member States of the Community of Independent States about the conclusion of a new agreement, especially with the Russian Federation and Lithuania. A pertinent agreement with Belarus has been paraphrased.

Bilateral agreements on environmental protection: In the field of environmental protection, an agreement on the transnational effects of industrial accidents was signed within the framework of the UN/ECE (Economic Commission for Europe). Furthermore, special treaties on cooperation in the field of environmental protection were signed between Austria and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

Regional agreements

  • CEI (Central European Initiative)

Austria takes part in the CEI´s Working Group on Civil Protection. The main activity of this Working Group is the "Co-operation Agreement on the Forecast Prevention and Mitigation of Natural and Technological Disasters", signed on 18 July 1992 in Vienna on the occasion of the CEI Annual Summit.

Read more: International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

Human and material resources

No information available

Stakeholders

Volunteers

The fire and rescue services Civil Protection and Disaster Response are mainly voluntarily based (85%, except major cities). The two leading organisations are: Austrian Fire Brigade and Austrian Red Cross.

Austrian Red Cross: The Austrian Red Cross (ARC) is a private organisation based on the ideal of selfless charity and motivated by non-profit thinking. Operating independently, it performs humanitarian tasks with the help of volunteers and employees in order to assist all people in need, at home and abroad.

Austrian Fire Brigade: There are umbrella organisations at district, state and federal levels. The organisation at the federal level is the Österreichischer Bundesfeuerwehrverband (Austrian Federal Fire-Brigade Federation), the state level organisations are called Landesfeuerwehrverband (State Fire-Brigade Federation).