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Spain - Disaster management structure

Vademecum - Civil Protection

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Spain has 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities; Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Ceuta*, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y Leon, Catalonia, Valencian Community, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Melilla*, Murcia, Navarra and Pais Vasco.

Note: the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla plus three small islands of Islas Chafarinas, Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, Isla de Alborán, Islas Columbretes administered directly by the Spanish central government, are all along the coast of Morocco and are collectively referred to as Places of Sovereignty.

The heads of the administrative units are appointed by the national government.

In Spain, civil protection is defined as the physical protection of the population and goods in cases of severe risk, public calamity, or extraordinary catastrophes in which the lives and physical integrity of the people are endangered. The national civil protection authorities are responsible for the overall coordination of emergencies.

The civil protection structure coincides with the administrative structure. The civil protection organisational structure is outlined as such:

A. The Delegate Commission of the Government for Crisis Situations was established in 1986. It consists of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers (i.e. the President and Vice Presidents of the Government), and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Economy and Finance, and the Interior. The task of the Crisis Cabinet is to direct and coordinate all actions related to the prevention, control and management of crises. Decision-making responsibilities lie with the Prime Minister.

B. The National Civil Emergency Planning Committee (NCEPC), an interministerial support function to the Crisis Cabinet, is mainly concerned with tasks related to the provision and implementation of resources in situations of crisis or emergency. The Committee is subordinate to the Ministry for Governmental Presidency. The National Civil Emergency Planning Committee has the following functions:

  • issuing of planning directives for different emergency plans, related to objectives, alternatives, and determination of time limits in order to plan for the different hypothetical crisis situations that have been formulated by the Delegate Commission of the Government for Crisis Situations (the Crisis Cabinet)
  • coordination of the different plans for resource contribution formulated by the Sectorial Committees, and dispatch of these to the Crisis Cabinet for approval
  • provision of information to the Crisis Cabinet periodically about the state of preparedness for crisis or emergency situations
  • representation of Spain in NATO's Senior Civil Emergency Planning Committee (SCEPC) and participation in their work. Nationally, the NCEPC functions as an intermediate organisation, with the Crisis Cabinet on the one side, from which it receives directives and crisis hypotheses, and the Sectorial Committees on the other side, which it directs and controls.

The NCEPC has a coordinating role in Spanish Civil Protection and sits at the top of Civil Defence’s organisational structure. It can meet either in plenary or permanent sessions. The Committee is composed of the Crisis Cabinet Secretary (President), the Director General for Defence Policy (First Vice President), the Director General for Civil Protection and Emergencies (Second Vice President) and the Under Director for Civil Preparedness (Secretary). Some of the other members are the Director of the Crisis Staff Department and the Committee President’s Advisor on Defence and Security.

C. The Civil Protection structure at the state level starts at the Directorate General of Civil Protection and Emergencies, under the Minister of the Interior. The representation of this structure in the Autonomous Communities is the responsibility of the delegations and sub-delegations of the Government. Each of them has a Civil Protection Unit.

Most competences in civil protection (except for nuclear issues) are transferred to the autonomous communities and municipalities, which have their own structure for the protection of citizens and goods. The communities and municipalities are responsible for integrated civil protection planning including risk assessment plans and for operational units.

There are no variations in the civil protection structure across types of disasters. The Joint Operation Centres are established to handle emergency situations on a case-to-case basis.

The relationship between the competent national civil protection authority and the civil protection organisations, such as the fire brigade, emergency medical services, police are described in the different plans.

Organisational chart

disaster management structure Spain

Legal basis

At national level

1. Decree 1125/1976 :

  • Establishes civil-military cooperation rules during emergencies
  • Settles procedures of request for the cooperation of the Armed Forces
  • Specifies that the Military Authorities are to be informed of and participate in the emergency plans produced by the Civil Authorities (at state, regional and local levels) and that they shall have prepared response plans.

2. Organic Act 1/1980 on National Defence:

  • Stipulates that the Government shall arrange the contribution of whatever kind of resource that is necessary (human, material, etc., public or private)
  • Defines the Civil Defence concept (Civil Preparedness), i.e. the standing availability of all human, material and non-military resources in order to manage major disasters
  • Establishes that the Armed Forces will cooperate at the request of civil authorities.

3. Organic Act 4/1981 about warning, exceptions and siege situations:

  • Defines the above-mentioned situations, establishing the procedures for declaring those situations and the measures that are to be taken in each case.

4. Act 2/1985 about Civil Protection, and the legal arrangements derived of that act:

  • Defines the Civil Protection concept
  • Establishes guidelines for planning.

5. Prime Minister’s National Defence Guideline 1/1986:

  • Creates a Crisis Management National System and a Civil Preparedness National System, compatible and comparable with those of the Atlantic Alliance.

6. Royal Decree 2639/1986:

  • Creates the Crisis Cabinet, its composition and its functions. The Crisis Cabinet is the leading authority of the Crisis Management National System.

7. Royal Decree 163/1987:

  • Creates a Crisis Management Directorate, as a working support of the system.

8. Ministers Council Agreement, dated 15 January, 1988:

  • Creates the National Civil Emergency Planning Committee, its composition and functions
  • Creates the Sectorial Working Committees, dependent upon the CNPCE, for the following sectors: food and drinking water, industry and raw materials, energy, health, civil landing, shipping and aerial transports, civil communications and shelter (protection of the population).

9. Royal Decree 1883/1996:

  • Establishes the new structure of the Ministry of Defence. This document defines the functions of the Policy of Defence Directorate, i.e., concerning Civil Preparedness, Civil Emergency Planning and the Armed Forces cooperation in disaster relief operations.

At ministerial level

Government decisions and regulations concerning management of emergency situations.

Inter ministerial cross-cutting coordination

Same as above.

At regional level

The autonomous communities have their own legislation.

At local level

The municipalities have their own legislation.

At international level

International intervention is governed by political agreements.

Bilateral agreements

In general civil protection matters, bilateral agreements have been concluded with France, Portugal and Morocco.

Regional agreements

FIRE 6. Cooperation in Civil Defence with Latin America.

Human and material resources

No information available


Private sector

When necessary, private sector means are mobilised.


There are volunteers groups in every municipality


Red Cross (Spain signs annual agreements with the Red Cross)

For more information about stakeholders, please contact: The Ministry of the Interior Directorate General of Civil Protection and Emergencies. See list of contacts.