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Iceland - Disaster management structure

Vademecum - Civil Protection

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Iceland consists of 15 Police Commissioner districts: Höfuðborgarsvæði, Akranes, Borgarnes, Snæfellsnes, Vestfirðir, Blönduós, Sauðárkrókur, Akureyri, Húsavík, Seyðisfjörður, Eskifjörður, Hvolsvöllur, Vestmannaeyjar, Suðurnes and Selfoss. Each district has one or more Civil Protection Committees, the total number of Civil Protection Committees is 22 (2009).

The Minister of Justice and Human Rights is the supreme authority on matters of civil protection at the national level. The Minister seconds administrative responsibility to The National Commissioner of Police (NCP). The NCP oversees matters such as hazard and risk assessments, mitigation and contingency planning and is responsible for nationwide coordination.

Local Police Commissioners are the supreme authority on matters of civil protection at the local level. These are appointed by the Minister of Justice and Human Rights. Local Police Commissioners head Local Area Operational Commands where representatives appointed by local governments, representatives appointed by volunteer search and rescue groups and representatives appointed by the Icelandic Red Cross, join them. At local level, Local Police Commissioners sit on Civil Protection Committees (CPCs) which are otherwise appointed by local governments. The major role of CPCs is to conduct hazard assessments, mitigation and contingency planning.

Civil protection in Iceland falls under the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Civil protection responsibilities at the national level are delegated to the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police (NCIP). The NCIP is thus the leading authority in Iceland’s National Joint Rescue, Command and Coordination Centre (JRCC) and all operational organisations have their representative in the JRCC.

The NCIP runs a Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management (DCPEM), which is responsible for the daily administration of civil protection matters. It maintains a national coordination/command centre, which can be activated at any time and it is in charge of the centre in emergencies. The DCPEM/NCIP is also responsible for monitoring and supporting research and studies related to risk factors and natural catastrophes, and coordination and support measures aimed at reducing risks of bodily harm.

The day-to-day functions of DCPEM include prevention, mitigation, preparedness and coordination (i.e. planning, training and equipment) as well as response and recovery. The role of the DCPEM/NCIP during emergency operations is to procure and deliver all outside assistance (national or international) for a stricken area, which is deemed necessary by the local chief of police.

Coordination and overall control of civil protection measures is carried out in a coordination and command centre in accordance with the relevant alert level and civil protection response plan. This may also be the venue for coordination of measures of all types in connection with search and rescue operations on land, at sea and in the air, or of measures dealing with hazardous situations, even if no state of emergency has been declared.

The coordination and command centre is run by the NCIP under the direction of an eleven-man committee appointed by the Minister of Justice and Human Rights. The representatives are chosen from among those who play an active part in the work of the coordination and command centre. The chairman of the committee is appointed by the minister without nomination. The National Commissioner of Police, the Icelandic Coast Guard, the Director-General of Public Health, the executive committee of the Metropolitan District Fire Brigade, the executive committee of the coordinated emergency telephone answering system, the Icelandic Red Cross, ISAVIA (Flugstoðir) and ICE-SAR have a representative to the committee. In addition, the Minister of Transport and Telecommunications and the committee of the Union of Local Authorities in Iceland each nominates a representative. The coordination or implementation of measures does not constitute part of the committee’s responsibilities.

At national level, the aim of civil protection is to prepare, organise and implement measures aimed at preventing and, to the extent possible, limiting physical injury or damage to the health of the public and damage to the environment and property - whether this results from natural catastrophes or from human actions, epidemics, military action or other causes - and to provide emergency relief and assistance due to any injury or damage that may occur or has occurred.

Government policy on civil protection and security shall be drawn up by the Civil Protection and Security Council for periods of three years at a time. The Council is under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister.

All ministries and national agencies are obliged to have contingency plans for the scope of the responsibilities in civil protection. Six to eight ministers are members of the Civil Protection and Security Council. All agencies are obliged to coordinate their contingency plans and operational procedures with the NCIP and DCPEM. Each agency has the tactical command of their unit under the coordination of the Local Police Commissioner.

Organisational chart

Legal basis

At national level

  • The Civil Protection Act (82/2008)
  • Regulation on working procedure of the Civil Protection and Security Council (459/2009)
  • Regulation on Civil Protection Alert Levels (650/2009)
  • Regulation on Response Plans, Regulation on the organisation of the Coordination and Command Centre (100/2009), Service Centres in Emergencies and Civil Protection Investigation Committee
  • Act on Emergency Alert -112 Number (25/1995)
  • Act on the Icelandic Coast Guard (52/2006)
  • Act on the Icelandic Meteorological Office (70/2008)
  • Act on Protective Measures Against Avalanches and Landslides (49/1997)
  • Act on Radiation Protection (44/2002)
  • Catastrophe Act (55/1992) and Catastrophe Regulation (83/1993)
  • Act on Fire Protection 75/2000
  • Act on Health Security and Communicable Diseases (19/1997)
  • Act on Hygiene and Pollution (7/1998)
  • Act on Maritime Security (50/2004)
  • Icelandic Aviation Act (100/2006)
  • Act concerning toxic and hazardous substances (52/1998)
  • Police Act 90/1996.

At ministerial level

The Civil Protection Act 82/2008. The Minister of Justice and Human Rights is the supreme authority in the field of civil protection in Iceland. The minister issues regulations on civil protection alert levels, after receiving them from the National Commissioner of Police and following consultation with the Civil Protection and Security Council. The individual government ministries and their subordinate bodies shall examine, in collaboration with the National Commissioner of Police, the disaster survival capacity of the sections of the Icelandic community falling under their range of operations. Furthermore, the individual government ministries and the bodies they administer, organise, in collaboration with the National Commissioner of Police and in conformity with the legislation applying to their spheres of activity, their intended responses and measures to be taken according to a response plan.

At local level

The Civil Protection Act 82/2008. Each local government area has a civil protection committee appointed by the local authority. The local authority determines the number of committee members. The civil protection committee consists of the district commissioner of the administrative area in which the local government area lie, representatives of the local authority and those representatives of the local authorities who, in the course of their work, attend to tasks in the service of the safety of the citizens. Local authorities may collaborate on the preparation of response plans, enter into agreements on mutual assistance or set up joint civil protection committees. The merger of civil protection committees, or collaboration between them, is subject to the approval of the Minister of Justice and Human Rights.

Private sector

The Civil Protection Act 82/2008. Public and private parties are obliged to provide the information necessary to prepare national or regional response plans. In the event of a dispute, as to what is considered necessary information for the purpose of this paragraph, a court ruling may be sought to resolve the issue.


  • Act on Rescuers and Rescue Teams (43/2003)
  • Regulation on Search and Rescue (289/2003)
  • IceSAR and The Red Cross, Regulation on nomination of volunteers (107/1969).


The Civil Protection Act 82/2008.

At international level

International intervention is governed by political agreements.

Bilateral agreements

Bilateral agreements are made between the DCPEM, the Red Cross and the Search and Rescue Association. Regulation on Volunteers (107/1969), NordRed agreement, EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Regional agreements

In each region, the Red Cross and search and rescue teams have made an agreement with the civil protection:

  • European Economic Area (EEA)
  • The Northern Dimension (implemented within the framework of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia).

Human and material resources

Civil protection expenditures: < 0.1% of GDP.


Private sector

Telecommunications companies, Neyðarlínan-112/Emergency Alert (operator of 112 single emergency number) and TETRA (emergency communication system), ISAVIA (Iceland’s Aviation Authorities, operator of airfields) and different companies with a role in civil protection.


In total, around 1.8 million volunteers are serving in the various emergency and civil protection services. The total number of employees in this area is unknown.