As a fundamental instrument of public security, the organisation, functioning, and implementation of civil protection is carried out by the different public administrations and by other entities involved in the risk management.
The Ministry of Interior is the highest authority in charge of Spanish Civil Protection. The Directorate General of Civil Protection and Emergencies (DGPCE) plays an essential role at national level.
Law 17/2015 on the National Civil Protection System (NCPS) ensures the coordination, cohesion, and efficiency of civil protection (CP) public policies. It also regulates the competences of the State General Administration on this matter. The NCPS integrates all public or private organisations and institutions, and citizens participating in CP activities.
Emergency situations imply the mobilisation of human and material resources. These belong to public administrations – national, regional and local – along with public institutions, private entities and citizens.
Autonomous communities are responsible for the direction and coordination of the emergencies in their territory, unless declared as a national emergency.
The cooperation of the various entities responsible for civil protection at both national and supranational level is key for joint action in the field of prevention, planning and disaster response.
The CP system is based on four key pillars: a comprehensive and actionable legal framework, the coordinating bodies, CP planning and training activities.
Prevention policy aims to avoid, or at least minimise, the adverse consequences and impacts of the pre-identified key risks. Therefore, all levels of the administration are involved in prevention plans.
The main prevention actions under the scope of civil protection activities are based on public communication and risk awareness, and the self-protection plans developed for all dangerous activities under the regulation of the self- protection rule (Royal
Decree 393/2007, 23 March). This regulation involves the national system of civil protection and the private sector.
There is no horizontal organisation responsible for all prevention plans, but prevention policy is organised following a sectorial approach, under the authority of the Ministry (central level) or Regional Government Counsellor (water management, dam safety, meteorology, environment, climate change, chemical industry, nuclear energy).
Decision 1313/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, states the need for Member States to provide the Commission with studies on national risk analysis. In 2015, the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Emergency, created the working group with all the concerned parties who agreed on the methodology for the risk assessment. This risk assessment is reviewed periodically.
Spain has cross-border agreements on civil protection with Portugal, France, and Morocco that includes risk assessment. The former is the most frequently used, mainly because of forest fires. To that end, Spain had the initiative to create a forest fires assessment team (registered in the European Civil Protection Pool) ready to asses not only the neighbouring countries but any other requesting country or international department.
Public administrations develop CP plans according to their competences in civil protection as foreseen by the law.
The state plan develops the organisation and procedures to support and assist other public administrations in CP emergencies. This plan also outlines the direction and coordination of all the public administrations in emergencies declared of national interest.
Territorial plans deal with emergencies that affect the territory of an autonomous community or a municipality.
Floods, earthquakes, chemical and radiological emergencies, transportation of dangerous goods, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, biological emergencies, and air accidents all require special plans.
The state is always responsible for the management of nuclear emergencies and war situations.
Finally, the self-protection plans set up the framework to prevent and control the risks caused by hazardous activities of certain industries or activities.
The communication of risks and the population awareness is carried out through an active methodology based on community meetings and the dissemination of videos, posters, brochures and guides adapted to children, teenagers, and adults.
Self-protection recommendations are provided to the population in written language and through explanatory videos about how to behave in case of emergency. Besides, guides dealing with the different risks have been issued for the primary and secondary school pupils in order to learn and practice prevention and self-protection measures.
A technical guide for prevention was recently published. The guide is addressed to the responsible bodies in charge of implementing information and awareness programmes for the population potentially affected by the different risks. In addition, Twitter is used to disseminate information on risks and emergency information in real time.
The National Civil Protection School (ENPC) is the training branch of the DGPCE pursuant to Law 17/2015. It is a major centre for strategic management that provides specialised training for national and international staff, first responders of CP agencies, and volunteers.
Each year, the ENPC approves a training plan with an average of 160 courses, 6000 students and 4000 teaching hours.
National exercises test the plans to cope with the different risks at local, regional and state levels and to practice emergency management and intervention tasks.
Concerning international exercises, Spain has coordinated five major full scale exercises and table top exercises funded by the European Commission within the Union Civil Protection Mechanism framework since 2012.
The National Meteorological Agency (AEMET) issues warning bulletins related with meteorological hazards such as rain, storms, wind, and snow.
Hydrological data are collected by the National Water Office and the river basins offices and submitted to the civil protection authorities. A project is currently in development to unify the information collected in each river basin and to define the threshold that could alert the authorities when the level of water would reach a certain level.
The radioactivity alert network (RAR) constantly measures Gamma radiation levels throughout the national territory, monitors its trends, and immediately detects abnormal radiation levels that would require the triggering of the corresponding actions as defined in the emergency plans for nuclear and radiological hazards. The network contains more than 900 measurement points (sensor plus control unit) distributed across the mainland and the two archipelagos, with the central node located at the DGPCE.
The National Seismic Network, is the public body responsible for detection, monitor and alert triggering to all civil protection and government authorities in order to allow response plans activation against seismic and volcanic risk. It runs, deploys and maintains more than 150 seismic detections devices and accelerometers country wide, with other techniques for volcano monitoring connected in real time to a data centre located at the National Geographic Institute facilities.
Other agencies, like the Oceanographic Institute, Geological Institute and the National Seaport Management Authority collaborate with other complementary instruments, such as sea level and tidal waves detection instruments, in order to set up a national tsunami warning centre.
All the information provided by the monitoring organisations, is distributed close to real time to the National Emergency Centre (CENEM), at the DGPCE.
When an emergency occurs at local level, the local territorial plan is activated and local resources are used. This is considered a level one emergency situation.
If the emergency escalates and the local level is unable to tackle with the situation, the autonomous community CP plan is activated and the emergency management responsibility is taken over by the community’s CP authority, which also provides its own resources. This is a level two emergency situation.
However, if the situation overcomes the capacity of the autonomous community or in case of nuclear emergency or war situation, or if it affects other autonomous communities, the Minister of Interior may declare a national emergency and take over the overall coordination of the activities. This is a level three emergency situation.
In all emergency situations, the national level is in charge of requesting international assistance to the Union Civil Protection Mechanism and/or under the umbrella of the bilateral agreements.
The DGPCE is the point of contact for the European Civil Protection Mechanism and coordinates with other central government bodies and autonomous communities.
In addition, the National Council of Civil Protection has the role of Spanish Committee for International strategy for Disaster Reduction under the secretariat of the DGPCE. Thus, the DGPCE is also the focal point for the implementation of the Sendai Framework and works with the National Council to set up the indicators to measure progress in achieving the seven global targets. The DGPCE is also the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG ) Policy focal point.
Spain is member of the Iberoamerican Association of governmental bodies for civil protection and civil defence since its creation in July 1996.
Spain has bilateral agreements on civil protection assistance and cooperation with Algeria, France, Morocco, Russia, Portugal, and Tunisia.