The Minister of Justice is the supreme authority for civil protection matters. The Civil Protection and Security Council draws up Government policy on civil protection and security for periods of 3 years at a time. The Council consists of government ministers and their permanent secretaries, representatives of local authorities, heads of critical infrastructure sectors, volunteer organisations, and civil protection organisations. The Prime Minister chairs these meetings. The government’s policy on civil protection and security gives an account of the current situation and prospects in civil protection and security matters. This includes prevention and preparedness actions, response and coordination of response plans, recovery, stock levels necessary to ensure the survival of the nation in the case of disasters, the function of public infrastructure and other vital measures that the council considers necessary to achieve the aim of the Civil Protection Act. The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management (NCIP/DCPEM) role is to implement measures in accordance with the government’s Civil Protection and Security Policy. Icelandic Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) and the Red Cross are the backbone of civil protection in Iceland Protection.
The first article of Act 82/2008 on civil protection stipulates mitigation and risk reduction from all natural and man-made hazards, epidemics, and military action in order to save lives, protect property and preserve the environment.
The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management works with municipal authorities at the local level, civil protection committees, first responders, and volunteers in order to fulfil these all hazard approach requirement. Preventive measures are based on hazards, and risk assessments and scientific research. Special prevention actions are based on the policy on Civil Protection and Security for 3 years at a time.
The main risks in Iceland are natural hazards The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management is responsible for risk assessments. The risk of volcanic activity is high with over 30 active volcanic systems. Earthquakes occur in the south Iceland seismic zone and along the north coast of Iceland and can reach up to magnitude of 7.0. Other high-risk natural hazards are glacial and river flooding, extreme weather, snow avalanches and landslides. A joint Nordic risk and capability analysis assesses how volcanic eruptions in Iceland could potentially affect Nordic countries.
There are 9 local civil protection districts and 21 civil protection committees appointed by local municipalities. The civil protection committees formulate their policy and organise their activities according to the Civil Protection Act. At the national level, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management implements measures in accordance with the national risk assessment and the government’s Civil Protection and Security Policy, and oversees measures taken for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Mitigation measures are taken for known risks. Response plans are prepared for identified high risks. These plans are activated on 3 levels: uncertainty phase, alert phase and emergency/distress phase. Each phase is identified with guidelines, speed of activation and scope. A National Crisis and Coordination Centre is run by the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and activated during crisis. The Centre coordinates and assists local crisis centres at the local level. All the 9 local civil protection districts run their own local crisis centres.
During disasters, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management plays an important part in the National Crisis and Coordination Centre to deal with risk communication. The team includes representatives from the ministries, Search and Rescue, the Red Cross and other key players in civil protection. The main purpose of the team is to inform the public, governmental and international organisations about the situation, send out situation reports and news releases. Communication and awareness raising is through workshops, education and outreach. The public and government institutions are involved in the exchange of information on risk assessment, scenarios, and policy. Risk communication tools such as guidelines, SMS, social media, websites, and information meetings with involved parties and the public promote risk reduction, risk awareness, and response.
Each year a number of new and updated response plans are implemented. Each civil protection district implements response plans in their district in collaboration with National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, and first responders and volunteers get training on basic techniques. ICE-SAR volunteers, the Red Cross, and professional fire fighters run their own training facilities. Training for area command and on-scene command for the local level are in the hands of National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management as well as training for the crisis centres. Experts in Civil Protection have participated in training courses of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism and have been engaged in the Programme of the Exchange of Experts.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) is the official monitoring organisation for natural hazards including early warning. During the early warning process, there is a daily communication between the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and the IMO.
The same process applies for other monitoring organisation with early warning such as public health (the Directorate of Health and Epidemiology), the environment (the Environmental Agency) and infrastructure risks. When needed there is a meeting with the Civil Protection Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) which consists of specialists from the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the Institute of Earth Sciences, the Environmental Agency, the Medical Directorate of Health (epidemiology), the Occupational Safety and Health Agency, and the Food and Veterinary Agency.
Experts from other agencies or institutes are called in if their expertise is required. During the early warning period information meetings are held with stakeholders from different organisation.
The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police maintains a National Crisis and Co-ordination Centre for Civil Protection and is responsible for operating the centre in emergency situations. According to The Civil Protection Act No 82/2008 and regulation No 650/2009 the National Commissioner is responsible for declaring an emergency and alert levels at any given time. This decision is made in consultation with the relevant regional police commissioner and the Minister of Justice is informed. There are 3 levels of activation; uncertainty phase, alert/hazard phase, and emergency/distress phase. The administrative levels of response are on-scene command, area command at local level, and the National Crisis Coordination Centre at national level.
An analysis on the EU Host Nation Support Guidelines has been made and the responsible ministry for Civil Protection has put together a task group.
The NORDRED agreement is between the Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland (1989). It is a framework for cooperation during emergency situation. Other international collaboration is HAGA, Council of the Baltic States, NATO and the UN.