In Italy, civil protection is a function attributed to an integrated system: the National Civil Protection Service, established in 1992 by Law no. 225 and reformed in 2018 by the Civil Protection Code.
It provides for implementing all activities to protect lives, property, settlements, animals and the environment from disasters and their damaging effects.
All levels of government are part of the National Civil Protection Service: the State, the Regions, the Autonomous Provinces, and the Local Authorities.
The operating structures working in coordination with such components are:
- the National Fire and Rescue Service
- the Armed Forces, the Police Forces
- the scientific community, the National Health Service
- the organised civil protection volunteer service
- the Italian Red Cross
- the National Corps of Alpine and Speleological Rescue
- the National System for Environmental Protection
- the structures responsible for meteorological services at national level.
Civil protection activities also benefit from the contribution of professional orders and boards as well as private companies, especially those linked to strategic sectors such as communications, transport, and essential services networks.
The direction and coordination of the National Civil Protection Service are entrusted to the President of the Council of Ministers, that is the Prime Minister, who exercises these functions through the Civil Protection Department.
Prevention is one of the civil protection activities identified by Law no. 225 of 1992, later referred to the Civil Protection Code of 2018. It consists of all activities aimed at avoiding or reducing possible damage in the event of a disaster.
Prevention activities include the alerting of the National Service, the civil protection planning, and training of service operators.
Further significant preventive actions also entail the information to the population, the promotion and organisation of exercises at every territorial level.
The activities of structural prevention of civil protection cover the participation to the drawing up of lines of address for the structural prevention of the risks, the competition to the planning of the interventions of mitigation of the risks, and the realization of structural interventions of risk mitigation in case of emergency.
The most recent document on risk assessment was issued by the Civil Protection Department in 2021, in compliance with the European Commission's requirements.
It consists of a summary of the relevant elements of risk assessment and management capacity, focusing on prevention and preparedness measures. It aims to address the risks affecting the country and those that could lead to multinational transboundary effects.
The summary contains updated information in the following documents:
- National Risk Assessment (2018): the document reviews the national risk scenarios focusing on seismic, volcanic, tsunami, hydrogeological, drought and forest fire risks.
- Assessment of risk management capacity in Italy (2018): it outlines the management capacity referred to hydraulic-hydrogeological, seismic, volcanic and forest fire risks.
- Management of Disaster Risks in Italy (2020): it outlines the stage of disaster risk management according to the existing technical-scientific know-how, planning and programming tools and the regulations in force. The document describes the national strategy and the framework for managing and reducing risks deriving from natural hazards in Italy.
Risk management planning
Italy is one of the most exposed countries to natural risks in the world (seismic, volcanic, tsunami, hydrogeological, hydraulic, and forest fires are the most relevant). Specific emergency plans are necessary to prepare the civil protection structures to face and manage an emergency.
A civil protection plan is a series of intervention and operative procedures to cope with any expected calamity in a territory. It integrates the forecasting and prevention plans and allows the authorities to prepare and coordinate the relief interventions to protect the population and the cultural heritage in a risk area.
Each Municipality draws up its own plan with (i) the information on the features and on the structure of the territory and (ii) the lines of planning and the intervention model to provide a suitable response to any emergency.
The plan is updated with the evolution of the territorial structure and the changes of the expected scenarios. For nuclear and volcanic risk (Vesuvius and Phlegraean Fields), specific national plans for the management of emergencies are in place.
Risk communication and awareness raising
In Italy, the mayors are the first Civil Protection Authority responsible for providing the population with adequate information on civil protection issues.
Municipal plans and local exercises are fundamental tools to inform citizens about the risks affecting their territory and on rules of conduct to adopt in an emergency.
At the national level, risk information and communication are carried out by specific initiatives to promote the culture of civil protection.
Since 2011, the Department of Civil Protection, in collaboration with other institutions and with national and local voluntary organisations, promotes the national communication campaign "I don't take risks".
The campaign promotes correct information on the major risks affecting the territory and explains the rules of conduct to adopt before, during and after an emergency.
Over the last few years, “I don't take risks” started reaching schools with a project designed to spread good civil protection practices among the younger generations.
Training and exercises
Civil protection exercises are carried out in collaboration with the operational structures and the components of the National Civil Protection Service with the participation of bodies and administrations involved in the management of a real emergency:
- At the national level, the Civil Protection Department works together with the regions or autonomous provinces involve
- At the regional, provincial and municipal levels, the exercises are carried out by the Regions, Prefectures, local authorities or other administrations of the National Service according to their competence.
The Department also plans, schedules and implements training activities to exercise components and operational structures of the system. The most recent event was Neptune III Project for coastal cleaning interventions in case of oil spillage.
It also organises international exercises and training events within the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, such as Protecting Cultural Heritage from the Consequences of Disasters, to identify shared operational procedures to protect cultural heritage in emergency.
Early warning systems
The alerting of the National Service falls within the prevention activities provided in the Civil Protection Code.
The National, State and Regional Alerting System consists of 2 phases: (i) forecasting, aimed at assessing, when and where possible, the expected situation and possible outcomes; and (ii) monitoring and surveillance, to supervise the evolution of a situation and its possible impacts on the territory.
The Civil Protection Department, Regions, and the Network of functional centres, made up of the Central Functional Centre based at the department, the decentralised functional centres of the Regions concur in the management of the National Warning System. Each functional centre carries out in real time forecasting, monitoring and surveillance activities on weather phenomena.
The consequent activity of assessment of the expected effects on people and goods in a specific territory is summarised in the bulletin of national criticality issued daily by the department.
Regions and autonomous provinces issue alerts for the local civil protection systems, whereas mayors are responsible for activating emergency plans and public information.
Since October 2020, the Department of Civil Protection has launched the "experimental" phase of IT-Alert, the new public early warning system for direct information to the population.
In case of serious emergencies, imminent or ongoing major events send short and detailed text messages to mobile phones.
The National Service operates according to the subsidiarity principle: the President of the Council of Ministers as National Authority, Presidents of the Regions and Autonomous Provinces and Mayors as territorial authorities.
Key factors in emergency management are the coordination centres. For example, in case of a local level emergency the mayor activates the Municipal Operations Centre (COC).
If the Municipality cannot manage the event, the Provincial level is activated through the CCS (Rescue Coordination Centre) chaired by the Prefect.
If the same happens at provincial level, the Region is in charge. The Council of Ministers may declare a National State of Emergency before or during an event that for its intensity and extension calls for immediate intervention and use of extraordinary means and powers.
The Civil Protection Department can set up on the site of the event the Dicomac (LEMA): the national coordination structure that includes operational structures and components of the National Service. National importance interventions are disposed through ordinances in agreement with the Regions concerned.
Cross-border, European and international cooperation
The Department of Civil Protection is the point of contact for the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. It is widely engaged in European, Mediterranean and international cooperation, including extensive collaboration with the EU, UN, NATO and international organisations.
Italy maintains bilateral agreements for mutual assistance in the event of disasters or serious accidents with nearly all neighbouring countries and other States within and outside Europe.
Host Nation Support is applied following the European Commission and NATO guidelines in case of EU Civil Protection Mechanism activation or any international assistance.
The Department is the National FP for the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Activities. Therefore, it implies a continuous interaction with the UNDRR (Sendai Framework Monitoring, Global Platform for DRR, European Forum for DRR or International Search and Rescue Advisory Group).
Facts & figures
General contact point:
- Presidency of the Council of Ministers - Civil Protection Department
- Postal address: Via Ulpiano, 11 - 00193 Rome
- Telephone: +39 06 68201 (switchboard); 800 840 840 (Contact Center)
- Certified mail PEC: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.protezionecivile.gov.it
Key contact to be used in case of emergencies:
- European Emergency Number: 112
- Forze di Polizia (112, 113); Vigili del Fuoco (115); Soccorso sanitario (118)
Contact point for international cooperation projects:
National risk assessment: NRA_ITALY_Dec2018_def (protezionecivile.gov.it)