Under the umbrella of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Portuguese National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection (ANEPC) oversees the protection and relief operations in mainland.
It is responsible for planning, coordinating and executing civil protection policy, namely in the fields of prevention and response to major accidents and disasters, protection and relief of populations and superintendence of fire brigades.
In addition, the civil protection legal basis establishes a National Civil Protection Commission. This is a body composed by representatives of all ministries and governmental entities with competences in civil protection area that assist the Prime Minister and the Government both in terms of policy and during emergency situations that require political decisions.
The civil protection legal basis stresses the preventive aspect as a key factor for a more resilient society. It establishes as fundamental objectives of civil protection “preventing collective risks and the occurrence of major accidents or catastrophes” and “mitigating collective risks and limiting their effects”.
This law defines a set of relevant areas of activity, such as the "survey, forecast, assessment and prevention of collective risks" and the "permanent analysis of vulnerabilities in situations of risk".
Furthermore, land use policies establish specific rules for risk mitigation and the legal framework for environmental assessment contributes to risk management by integrating environmental concerns in the preparation and approval of plans, programs and projects.
Also, specific policies related to the most significant risks (forest fires or floods), provide a targeted ground for the development of risk reduction activities.
The coordination of the National Risk Assessment (NRA) is a responsibility of ANEPC, that “promotes the survey, forecasting, analysis and assessment of collective natural or technological risks”. The municipalities also develop risk assessments at local level.
The NRA considers 24 different risks of different origin:
- Natural: snowfall, heat waves, cold waves, windstorms, droughts, floods, coastal flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, coastal erosion in cliffs
- Human-induced: road accidents, rail accidents, river/sea accidents, air accidents, accidents in the transport of dangerous goods, accidents in pipelines, urban fires, collapse of tunnels and bridges, dam break, “Seveso” accidents, collapse of buildings with high population concentration, and radiological emergencies
- Mixed origin: forest fires.
The risks of forest fires, heat waves, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, windstorms, dam break, radiological emergencies and floods are key risks in Portuguese mainland.
Risk management planning
Portugal is subject to several risks of natural, technological or mixed origin. The management of these risks has traditionally been based on an apparent monopoly of the response component to the detriment of the prevention component.
However, in line with the current international framework, there has been a progressive paradigm’ shift from consequence management to risk management. In 2017, a legal framework adopted a National Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (ENPCP), which is a guiding document for central and local administration, aimed at emphasising the preventive side of civil protection.
This document is assumed as the materialisation of the national commitment to fulfilling the goals set by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The ENPCP considers 5 strategic objectives: (i) strengthen governance in risk management; (ii) improve risk knowledge; (iii) implement risk reduction strategies; (iv) improve preparedness for risk occurrence; (v) involve citizens in risk awareness.
This framework, conceived for the period 2020-2030 is thus intended to meet the objective of reinforcing civil protection with an emphasis on prevention and preparedness.
Therefore, assuming the need to operationalise the already existing knowledge concerning risks that affect the territory, the action plan focus efforts and investments in prevention actions, in the optimization of monitoring, alert and warning systems and in the planning of response actions.
Risk communication and awareness raising
Risk assessments are made available to the public by the respective competent authorities, by the internet or specific communication mechanisms. NRA is available at ANEPC’s website and geographic information is disseminated on a portal.
An on-line platform was created available to the public with information regarding civil protection emergency plans. It aims to provide generic data to citizens about prevention and preparedness measures as well as on self-protection actions to be taken when facing risks,
ANEPC website and YouTube channel also promote the share of information on civil protection events and awareness campaigns, namely 2 specific initiatives targeting key risks:
- The “Safe Village” and “Safe People” Programme, to raise awareness on the risk of forest fires and to increase knowledge regarding self-protection measures to be adopted
- The initiative “the Earth trembles”, aiming at raising awareness on how to act before, during and after an earthquake.
At local level, the municipalities’ civil protection services promote their own risk communication and awareness raising campaigns, according to ANEPC guidelines.
Training and exercise
ANEPC develops an annually training and exercise programme through its National Training Centre (ENB) that provides multiple initial training and several specialisations for civil protection agents of the various levels of operational intervention (municipal, district, regional and national). ENB is the national entity responsible for the training of all fire brigades in Portugal.
ANEPC is also the focal point for the EU Civil Protection Mechanism Training Programme as well as for the Exchange of Experts Programme.
Through the participation in EU consortiums, IT promotes training and exercises at EU level. Bilaterally, ANEPC also promotes training with the countries that have bilateral agreements signed in the field of civil protection.
At local level, the municipalities’ civil protection services are responsible for their own training and exercises.
Early warning systems
The National System for Risk Monitoring and Communication, Special Alert and Public Warning defines guidelines for the information flow between technical and scientific entities and civil protection authorities.
Several monitoring mechanisms are in place to ensure an early warning of key risks, including:
- the forest fire risk index and the national network of watch towers (forest fires)
- the Seismic Network and the Regional Tsunami Warning Centre (earthquakes and tsunamis),
- The National Water Resources Information System and the Water Resources Surveillance and Alert System (droughts and floods)
- the national radioactivity alert network (radiological emergencies).
Regarding Public Warning Systems, ANEPC normally uses its own communication channels, the “MAI Mobile” app and the dissemination of press releases to issue public warnings. In some situations, however, an SMS warning is sent to provide citizens with information regarding an extreme risk situation and the self-protection measures to be taken.
Land Based SMS is, therefore, the most wide-ranging system in place for broadcasting warnings. Messages are addressed to any citizen who is in the affected area, including roaming citizens (who will also receive the SMS in Portuguese and English).
Since 2018, the system was activated in almost 20 occasions (for forest fires, extreme weather and COVID-19 warnings), sending more than 200 million written messages to mobile phone users located in the areas at risk.
At local level, the municipalities’ civil protection services are responsible to develop their own EWS to population
The Civil Protection basis law establishes an Integrated System for Relief Operations (SIOPS) that sets the structures, standards and procedures. The aim is to ensure that all civil protection agents act, at the operational level, in a coordinated way and under a unique single command, to respond to emergency situations, without prejudice to their hierarchical and functional dependence.
The single command established through the SIOPS system relies on the National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection.
The civil protection system is decentralised (local, district, regional and national level). Civil protection activities are performed by different actors at different organisational levels, each with a set of competencies and responsibilities.
In case of international assistance, ANEPC is the competent authority under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, and organises the external assistance ins straight collaboration with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Cross-border, European and international cooperation
ANEPC participates in the implementation of the Portuguese international cooperation policy in the field of emergency and civil protection, in accordance with the guidelines established by the Government.
It ensures external relations, within the scope of civil protection, namely:
- at EU level (EU Civil Protection Mechanism) as well as with other countries
- through bilateral agreements (Spain, France, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Russia, Cape Vert, and Mozambique)
- through multilateral cooperation (such as NATO, United Nations, Council of Europe).
ANEPC also ensures the representation of Portugal in international civil protection institutions, always under the guidance of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Facts & figures
General contact point
AUTORIDADE NACIONAL DE EMERGÊNCIA E PROTEÇÃO CIVIL (ANEPC)
- Avenida do Forte, 2794 -112 Carnaxide - Portugal
- Tel:(+351) 214 247 100
- E-mail: geralprociv [dot] pt
Last updated: 05/07/2022