European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Civil protection

EU Civil Protection exercise in Austria: rescue teams looking for survivors of the disaster. © European Union/ECHO/Oerk

Natural and man-made disasters can occur at any moment in time. They can cause not only economic and environmental damage, but more importantly loss of lives.

Civil protection assistance consists of governmental aid delivered in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. This emergency relief can take the form of in-kind assistance, deployment of specially-equipped teams, or assessment and coordination by experts sent to the field.

Disasters know no borders and a well-coordinated response at European level is necessary to avoid duplication of relief efforts and ensure that assistance meets the real needs of the affected region.

In response to the high number of recent emergencies the EU Commission announced in November 2017 new plans to strengthen the EU's civil protection response to support Member States to better respond and prepare for natural and man-made disasters.

EU Civil Protection Mechanism

When a country is hit by a disaster which overwhelms its response capacity, European countries can provide assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. 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 the delivery of civil protection teams and assets to the affected country and population.  

Any country in the world can call on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for help. Since its launch in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has received more than 200 requests for assistance. It intervened in some of the most devastating disasters the world has faced, like typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines (2013), the floods in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014), the Ebola outbreak (2014), the conflict in Ukraine (since 2014), the earthquake in Nepal (2015), and the refugee crisis in Europe.

Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC)

The Emergency Response Coordination Centre is the 24/7 operational hub of the Mechanism. It coordinates the delivery of civil protection assistance to disaster stricken countries such as relief items, expertise, intervention teams and specific equipment. Through a direct link with the national civil protection authorities of the Mechanism's participating states, the ERCC ensures rapid deployment of civil protection assets.

Additionally, the ERCC 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.

Emergency Response Capacity

To further enhance the European preparedness for disasters, European countries created the European Emergency Response Capacity (EERC) in 2014, as part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The EERC brings together a range of relief teams, experts and equipment, which participating states make available and keep on standby for EU civil protection missions all over the world. This voluntary pool allows for a faster and more effective EU response to disasters and it ensures better planning and coordination of EU operations.

Prevention and Preparedness

Via the Mechanism, the European Commission supports and complements the prevention and preparedness efforts of participating states, focusing on areas where a joint European approach is more effective than separate national actions. These include improving the quality of and accessibility to disaster information, encouraging research to promote disaster resilience, and reinforcing early warning tools. In addition, the Mechanism provides training and exercise programmes for experts and teams from the participating countries.


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