Civil protection assistance consists of governmental aid delivered in preparation for, or in the immediate aftermath of a disaster in Europe and worldwide. It takes the form of in-kind assistance, deployment of specially-equipped teams, or experts assessing and coordinating support in the field. All EU Member States, and Iceland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, and Turkey are participating states to the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism. A proposal by the European Commission to strengthen the support to Member States in better responding and preparing for disasters is currently under negotiation.
Natural and man-made disasters know no borders and can occur at any moment. A well-coordinated response at European level allows avoiding duplication of relief efforts and ensures that assistance meets the real needs of the affected region. When a disaster cannot be dealt by one country alone, participating states step in and provide assistance via the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM). The Mechanism was established in 2001 to foster cooperation among national civil protection authorities across Europe. It enables a more rapid and effective response to emergencies by coordinating and financially supporting the delivery of civil protection teams and assets to the affected country and population.
The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is the hub of the Mechanism that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It coordinates the delivery of assistance to disaster-stricken countries, such as relief items, expertise, intervention teams and specific equipment. The ERCC can ensure rapid deployment of emergency support through a direct link with national civil protection authorities.
The ERCC also provides emergency communications and monitoring tools through the Common Emergency Communication and Information System (CECIS), a web-based alert and notification application enabling real time exchange of information.
Since 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) has been activated more than 300 times by countries seeking European assistance in responding to emergencies. The EUCPM supported people in some of the most devastating disasters in Europe and around the world.
Beyond European borders, the Mechanism was activated in 2017 in response to devastating floods in Peru, the earthquake in Mexico and hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean. In 2015, the EUCPM supported Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia in responding to migrants’ and refugees’ needs, such as providing sleeping bags, heaters and hygiene kits.
Civil protection operations can also be supported by satellite maps produced by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service. Copernicus provides timely and very precise geospatial information that is useful to plan disaster relief operations.
In 2014, European countries created the European Emergency Response Capacity (EERC) to further enhance European preparedness for disasters. As part of the EUCPM, the EERC is a voluntary pool of resources that consists of relief teams, experts and equipment. Participating states make these resources available and keep them on standby for future worldwide deployment. The voluntary pool allows for a faster, more effective EU response to disasters and it ensures better coordination of EU operations.
The European Commission supports and complements the prevention and preparedness efforts of participating states by focusing on areas where a joint European approach is more effective than separate national actions. Improving the quality of and accessibility to disaster information, encouraging research to prepare and prevent disasters and reinforcing early warning tools are key to mitigate effects of disasters and save lives. In addition, the Mechanism provides training and exercise programmes for experts to enhance and share their expert knowledge.
In November 2017, the Commission proposed to strengthen the collective European response to disasters, especially when several disasters hit at the same time. The Commission proposes two complementary strands of action:
In addition, streamlined procedures allow for an even faster response and higher financial support will allow alleviating the economic consequences of emergency.