Civil Protection in Austria

Disaster Management

"Disaster Management” refers to the entirety of all coordinated measures in the areas of disaster prevention, disaster preparedness, disaster response, and recovery after disasters, including the ongoing evaluation of the measures taken in these areas.

The following diagram illustrates the areas of Disaster Management:

&copy Michael Felfernig, BMI
© Michael Felfernig, BMI

Disaster prevention

"Disaster Prevention" refers to all measures that significantly mitigate the likelihood and the consequences of a disaster.

These measures are comprehensive and therefore difficult to define. Numerous legal provisions in Federal and provincial acts foresee security measures and standards as well as regulations to prevent disasters. In addition, there are comprehensive standards at the international level (ISO), the European level (CEN) and the national level (ÖNORM); these range from traffic safety via industrial safety procedures to international cooperation in these fields. The regulations can be divided as follows:

  • Rules on traffic safety
  • Rules on building safety
  • Rules on fire safety
  • Rules on spatial planning
  • Rules on industrial safety

Furthermore, within the scope of the National Crisis and Disaster Management (SKKM), the Federal Ministry of the Interior has established a first national risk analysis. The central element of this risk analysis (347,5 KB) is a preliminary risk matrix.

Risk Matrix
Risk Matrix © Siegfried Jachs, BMI

This matrix shows that the likelihood of mesoscale convective systems (of large-scale thunderstorms), while relatively high, has a relatively limited effect on Austria. Although there is a much lower probability of an earthquake occurring in western Austria, the effect would be significantly higher.

 

A specific model of risk mapping was implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management and the Association of Insurance Companies of Austria (VVO) as a nationwide risk zoning system for natural disasters, focusing on floods. Thus a visualization of flood areas for flood flows is available for annualities of 30, 100,and 200 years at http://www.hochwasserrisiko.at/.

Many activities of the rescue organizations, the Austrian Civil Protection Association, the Safety Information Centers (SIZ) and the Children’s Safety "Olympics" "SAFETY-Tour" are disaster prevention measures.

At the European level, in the Union Civil Protection Mechanism a separate chapter has been devoted to prevention. The European Commission  is called upon for a series of activities to strengthen preventive measures. Among others, a cross-sectoral overview of the risks for natural or man-made disasters shall be established and regularly updated. The Member States shall make a summary of the relevant points of their risk assessments at the national or appropriate sub-national levels available to the European Commission, and refine their Disaster Risk Management planning at the national level.

Upon request of a Member State of the European Union, a third country, or the United Nations or their institutions, a European team of experts can be deployed by the Commission to provide advice on prevention measures.

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Disaster preparedness

The term "Disaster Preparedness" refers to all actions to prevent and combat the hazards and damages that could result from a potential disaster.

Disaster Preparedness is a task that relates to both governmental authorities and rescue organizations (emergency relief services). The provincial disaster relief acts and regulations lay down the operational preparedness measures of the authorities. The main preparedness measures focus on command and control structures and respective management and coordination tasks. These include training, exercises, development of disaster management plans on municipality, district and provincial level as well as technical equipment and staffing of the command and control structures. Furthermore warning and alerting of the population is covered by these acts and regulations. The authorities provide basic financial resources for rescue organizations and the necessary legislative framework.

The disaster management authorities have the following responsibilities:

  • the development of disaster management plans (including special contingency plans)
  • the development of external emergency plans by the disaster management authorities (district administration authorities) for hazardous facilities (Seveso directive)
  • setting up command and control structures to support the head of operatio
  • setting up and maintaining facilities for alerting the general public: provincial alarm centers (LWZ) have been set up in the Federal Provinces, and the Federal Alarm Center (FAC) has been established at the Federal Ministry of the Interior
  • training of disaster management personnel
  • exercises: a separate directive on exercises in the area of radiation protection has been developed (740 KB)
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The Federal Ministry of the Interior has issued a series of public guidebooks on Civil Protection.

In the frame of the National Crisis and Disaster Management (SKKM), the MOI offers two training courses for emergency and rescue organizations: one in the area of legal and organizational principles (2,1 MB) , and another on command and control in disasters (1,5 MB) .

Weather has a significant influence on disaster preparedness. Meteorological warnings are available through the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics.  Extreme weather events are available on the Meteoalarm website for most of the European countries. In addition, Austria has a nationwide warning and alerting system and a radiation early warning system.

Many activities of the rescue organizations, the Austrian Civil Protection Association, the Safety Information Centers (SIZ) and the Children’s Safety "Olympics" "SAFETY-Tour" form disaster preparedness measures.

At the European level, in the Union Civil Protection Mechanism  a separate chapter has been devoted to preparedness. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) has been established for the coordination of emergency measures; it is managed by the European Commission.  The capability to mobilise and dispatch expert teams has been set up. The Member States identify, in advance, experts that could be dispatched as members of expert teams to meet priority intervention or support needs based on a request for assistance.

A training programme for Civil Protection and emergency management personnel as well as a system for exchange of experts has been set up, whereby individuals may be seconded to other Member States.

At the request of a Member State, a third country or the United Nations or its agencies, the Commission may deploy an expert team on site to provide advice on preparedness measures.

Further information is available at help.gv.at.

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Disaster response

Disaster response refers to all measures taken by authorities, rescue organizations, respective institutions, individuals and affected parties to protect from and combat the hazards and damages of a disaster. The goal is to ensure public order and security, to provide basic services, and to start recovery measures.

Disaster response encompasses all measures from the official declaration as disaster until its end. In the response phase the competent authorities (usually the authorities on district level) are responsible for the command and control measures. Typically, the disaster operation starts with an emergency call, an alarm, and a rescue and/or firefighting operation (local rescue services, local fire and police authorities). With the official declaration of a disaster by the responsible authorities (and in some provinces with the announcement) command and control passes over to these authorities. According to the disaster relief acts, the competences of the command and control structures are applied in a subsidiary way.

In the international context there is a range of activities in the areas of Disaster Prevention and Disaster Preparedness. In Austria, the Federal Alarm Center (FAC) at the Operations and Coordination Center (EKC) of the Fereral Ministry of the Interior acts as 24/7 contact point for international requests for assistance in cases of disaster.

The webpages at help.gv.at contain further information on disaster response.

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Disaster recovery

"Recovery" refers to all measures aiming at re-establishing the pre-disaster situation, while reducing vulnerability and/or increasing resilience.

The transition from the response phase to the recovery phase is fluent. The same applies to the transition between recovery and the prevention of new disasters of the same kind; the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure is carried out mostly by taking into account an updated risk analysis and/or a new risk assessment, in order to prevent new damages in case of disaster.

In many of the disaster relief acts of the Federal Provinces, sharp distinctions are made between response and recovery. The disaster response of the responsible authorities aims at combating hazards. These authorities have only limited responsibilities as regards follow-up and recovery measures. Similarly, disaster management planning encompasses only measures for combating hazards. The development of continuity and recovery plans do not fall within the scope of disaster management planning.

Recovery measures after disasters can be divided into short-term and long-term recovery measures. The recovery phase focuses on financial assistance for long-term private and public reconstruction. The recovery of private property is in principle the responsibility of the owner; however, the state also allows for subsidies and the following measures:

  • Government financial assistance (grants, loans)
  • Tax reliefs
  • Aid from special interest groups
  • Insurance payments
  • Donations, private aid

The central financial instrument for post-disaster assistance is the disaster relief fund established at the Ministry of Finance. The allocated money has been raised through personal income tax and corporate income tax according to the Fiscal Equalization Act in force.

Insurance policies for the recovery of damages due to natural disasters are not common in Austria. Some household insurances comprise risk independent policies in case of disasters and some building insurances foresee provisions in case of storm.

Another financial instrument at the European level is the European Solidarity Fund.  It was established after the disastrous floods in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic in August 2002. The Fund partially compensates the public measures for short-term recovery of public infrastructure and operational costs of the affected countries.

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