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Netherlands - Disaster management structure

Vademecum - Civil Protection

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The Netherlands is divided into 12 provinces (provincies, singular - provincie): Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland (Fryslan), Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant (North Brabant), Noord-Holland (North Holland), Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland (Zealand) and Zuid-Holland (South Holland), which are again subdivided into 431 municipalities.

Each province is administered by an elected province council with the Commissioner of the Queen (CdK) as its head. The CdK is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands. Each province is further subdivided into municipalities with an elected council. The mayor of each municipality is appointed by the Queen.

Since 1 January 2010 the country has been subdivided into 25 security regions. The security regions are in charge of the police, the fire brigade and the public health institutions on their territory. The security regions are the political link between the local civil protection organisations and the national governmental institutions.

In the Dutch system of crisis management, each ministry is responsible for crisis management within its own specific area.

The overall responsibility rests with the Directorate General for Public Order and Safety within the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry of the Interior coordinates crisis management preparedness and is responsible for public order and safety. This includes, among other things, the responsibility for fire brigades, disaster management and the organisation of medical assistance in the event of disaster.

The National Information Centre, also within the Ministry of the Interior, handles public information. If a crisis occurs, a crisis centre for decision-making will be set up within the ministry concerned. Apart from the minister concerned, the Prime Minister may call upon other ministries to become part of the Prime Minister's crisis decision-making structure. In this case, a National Coordination Centre will be set up. The responsibility for disaster relief and safety in general rests with the municipalities. In the event of a disaster, the municipalities will cooperate regionally. If regional assets should prove insufficient, assistance can be requested from national level. The Minister of the Interior is responsible for this coordination.

If a disaster cannot be managed at local level, the Commissioner of the Queen can instruct the mayor (or mayors) about the policy to be undertaken. In this case, the Commissioner takes over the operational command of disaster management, and the Minister of the Interior gives instructions directly to the Commissioner.

At national level, each ministry is responsible for crises and disasters within its policy area. The National Crisis Centre (NCC) operates as national coordination unit when crises in connection with disasters affect several policy areas. National civil protection authorities cooperate with operational agencies via the security regions. In case of terrorism attacks the National Coordinator on Counter Terrorism (the NCTb, subunit of the Ministry of Justice) will play a major role in decision-making and planning.

The NCC operates under the guidance of the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for national security and safety at national level. Each ministry is responsible for security and safety within areas related to its policy area.

The NCC acts as coordination point for crises and disasters, which affect the policy areas of more than one ministry.

A permanent operational NCC has been established within the Ministry of the Interior for the purpose of coordination of crisis response. The NCC handles the dissemination of information and the coordination of administrative measures between various ministries and provincial and municipal authorities.

At regional level, the 25 security regions of the country are in charge of civil protection issues in municipalities which belong to their territory. Several organisations with crisis-related tasks, like fire brigades and public health institutions, are organised within the security regions. Next to the security regions there are 25 police regions and one national police corps (KLPD).

At local level, each municipality has a division, which is in charge of civil protection issues.

Organisational chart

Legal basis

At national level

The following acts provide the administrative and operational framework for the physical aspects of the protection of the population in the Netherlands.

The Fire Service Act (1985): The fire brigades in the Netherlands are organisations consisting mainly of volunteers. Professional fire-fighters are in the minority. According to the Act, each municipality shall have its own fire brigade, run by a municipal fire brigade commander. If assistance at the local level should prove inadequate, the mayor may submit a request to the Commissioner of the Queen (CdK) for assistance from other regions within the province. The CdK may also request that measures be taken by the Minister of Internal Affairs.

The Disasters Act: This Act describes a disaster as an incident, which seriously affects public safety and thereby poses a serious threat to the life and health of many people and/or significant financial interests, and which requires the coordinated use of services and organisations within different disciplines. The fire brigade forms the core of the organisational structure for disaster management. It also has a coordinating role in the preparation and implementation of disaster management. To ensure adequate preparedness, the Disasters Act establishes three types of plans:

  • Disaster management plans
  • Disaster contingency plans
  • Provincial coordination plans.

The mayor has the overall command of disaster management and makes the final decision on what measures to take in the event of a serious threat or disaster.

The Security Region’s Act: This Act will substitute the Disaster and Heavy Accidents Act and the Fire Service Act of 1985. By this Act, the mayor is still responsible for a local disaster within his or her municipality. During a disaster or crisis, which affects more than one municipality at a time, the chair of the security region is in supreme command of the rescue teams and makes the decisions within the region. The chair of the security region is the same as the mayor, who is also in charge of the regional police force.

The Security Region’s Act concerns quality requirements for the security regions.

When preparing for disasters and crises, the CdK can give instructions to security regions when the Inspection for Public Order and Safety (IOOV) acknowledges a lack of preparedness.

The Act on Medical Assistance in Times of Disaster: Medical assistance in times of disaster is an integral part of disaster management and is designed to provide the best possible treatment to as many victims as possible. In the event of major incidents and disasters, the director of the designated public health service in the region is in charge of the organisation, coordination and management of medical assistance services. All of these acts are based on the position that the responsibility for disaster management should rest at local (municipal) level.

In case of a limited or general emergency, the following emergency legislation can be applied: The Coordination of Exceptional Situations Act, the Extraordinary Competences of Civil Authority Act, the Displacement Act and the War Act. (Coördinatiewet uitzonderingstoestanden, Wet buitengewone bevoegdheden burgerlijk gezag, wet verplaatsing bevolking en de Oorlogswet). These Acts will be applied by Royal Decree at the request of the Prime Minister. According to Art. 103 of the Constitution, deviation from constitutional regulations and certain human rights is possible during an emergency.

At ministerial level

The Ministry of Internal Affairs is the coordinating ministry for crisis and disaster control. In case of crisis the National Handbook on crisis decision-making will be activated. In principle, each minister is responsible for crises in his/her own policy area. Response activities will be applied and coordinated by the affected Departmental Crisis Centre (DCC). In case of a crisis, which affects more than one policy area, communication must be coordinated at national level and a Ministerial Council Crisis Control (MCCb) will be formed.

At regional and local levels

The local and regional authorities act in accordance with the above-mentioned regulations. The regional decision-making structure is established within the Security Regions Act.

At international level

International intervention is governed by political agreements.

Human and material resources

No information available


Private sector

Energy: Nuon, Liander, Essent, Eneco, Oxxio, Electrabel, RWE
Telecom/ICT: UPC, Ziggo, KPN, Orange, BEN, T-mobile, Getronics, Koning&Hartman
Drinking water: Dunea, Evides, Nuon, Oasen, Vitens, PWN, WML, Waternet
Food: Friesland Campina, Univeq, Puratos, Pepsico, Alpro, CSM, Makro
Health: Hospitals, home care, alternative medicine practitioners
Finance: ABN-AMRO; Rabobank; Postbank
Water management: Union of waterschappen
Public safety: The police, fire brigades, ambulances, doctors
Legal: Justice department, lawyers
Public governance: Mayors, governors, MPs
Transportation: Connexxion, Veolia, HTM, GVB, RET
Chemical industry: Shell; AKZO-Nobel, MSD, Solvay, VSM

For more information about the private sector, please contact VNO-NCW.


  • Red Cross
  • ANBO
  • ATAS
  • COC
  • Salvation Army
  • Jantje Beton
  • IVN
  • IKV
  • KWF
  • Mezzo
  • NUSO
  • NVVH
  • SSKW
  • Cordaid
  • VBOK
  • UvV.

For more information about private volunteers, please contact the NOV.


  • FNV
  • CNV
  • ANWB.