Civil Protection in Austria 

International Disaster Management

Population growth, economic and technological developments, and ecological changes have led to a dramatic increase in environmental, natural, and technological disasters in the past hundred years. National resources are no longer sufficient to battle these disasters effectively. There is an urgent need for intensified transnational cooperation.

Since the 1980s, international organizations – in particular the United Nations,  the European Union, and the NATO Partnership for Peace  – have been striving to develop plans to improve international cooperation when disasters occur. These actions provide for cooperation measures in the areas of Prevention, Preparedness, and Response. The basic elements of international cooperation include the establishment of national contact points, the inventory of resources for cross-border operations, plans for joint training and exercises, as well as the cooperation in the area of prevention.

The United Nations  was at the forefront: already in 1988, as a result of the devastating earthquake in Armenia, it initiated activities to improve cooperation within the international community concerning disaster relief. In 1991 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 46/182,  which established the framework for international disaster relief and assigned the leading role to the United Nations in the field of disaster relief. For this reason the Department of Humanitarian Affairs was created; after a reorganization in 1998 UN OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ) was set up in Geneva. Austria has actively supported the international efforts from the beginning and has played a leading role in building up the disaster relief system of the United Nations.

In order to improve information and the involvement of all actors, Internet platforms were created, such as the following:

The Fire Brigade, floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Fire Brigade, floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina
© Matthias Fischer, LFKDO NÖ

In addition to the systems of International Disaster Relief, Bilateral Disaster Relief is of particular importance. “Who helps quickly, helps double.” For this reason, Austria has concluded bilateral disaster relief agreements with almost all of its neighboring countries and with several other countries within and outside Europe. These agreements regulate the cooperation for preventing and combatting disasters, in particular by establishing contact points, facilitating border crossing of disaster relief teams, and the facilitation of import and export of aid supplies and equipment. Likewise, command and control, reimbursement of costs, compensation of damages, and joint exercises are regulated. In case of disaster, bilateral assistance is coordinated by Department II/ORK/10 of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (MOI).

In Austria, the Federal Alarm Center (FAC) at the Situation Room is the 24/7 contact point for international requests for assistance in cases of disaster.

Since 2003, Austria has participated in 169 relief operations in the framework of EU, NATO or on a bilateral basis. These include:

year mission
2022 forest fires in Slovenia (July), forest fires in France (August), war in Ukraine (March 2022 – ongoing)
2021 COVID-19 in Bangladesh (December), COVID-19 in Uzbekistan (November), COVID-19 in Tajikistan (November), explosion tanker in Sierra Leone (November), COVID-19 in Vietnam (November), COVID-19 in Latvia (October), COVID-19 in Romania (October),  COVID-19 in Costa Rica (September), COVID-19 in Iran (August), forest fires in Greece (August), forest fires in North Macedonia (August), migration crisis in Lithuania (July), floods in Belgium (July), COVID-19 in Tunisia (June), floods in Timor Leste (May/June), volcanic eruption in St. Vincent/Grenadines (May/June), COVID-19 in Fiji (May/June), COVID-19 in Nepal (May/June), COVID-19 in Moldova (May), COVID-19 in India (April)
2020 earthquake in Croatia (December), floods in Sudan (October/November), migration crisis in Greece, Lesbos/Moria (September), explosion disaster in Beirut, Lebanon (August), COVID-19 in Italy (April), earthquake in Croatia (March), migration crisis in Greece (March), COVID-19 in China (January)
2019 earthquakes in Albania (September and November), forest fires in Bolivia (September), floods in Iran (March),  tropical cyclone „Idai“ in Mozambique (March)
2018 earthquake/tsunami in Indonesia (October), migration crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina (June), immunoglobulin shortage in Romania (March)
2017 floods in Albania (December), forest fires in Chile (February)
2016 humanitarian crisis in Iraq (November), tornado "Matthew" in Haiti (October), floods in Macedonia (August)
2015/2016  migration crisis in Greece
2015 civil unrest in the Ukraine and floodsing in Albania, Macedonia and Myanmar and the earthquakes in Nepal, migration crisis in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia 
2014 snow-and-ice chaos in Slovenia, floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa
2013 tropical storm Haiyan in the Philippines
2012 refugee crisis due to the Syria conflict
2011 earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, floods in Pakistan, earthquake in Turkey and floods in the Philippines
2010 floods in Albania, Romania, Pakistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro and earthquakes in Haiti and Chile
2009 floods in Namibia and Tajikistan and the earthquake and tsunami in Samoa
2008 tropical storm in Myanmar
2007 forest fires in Greece, Macedonia and Albania
2006 earthquakes in Indonesia and floods in Ethiopia
2005 floods in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and in Southeast Asia after the tsunami, as well as floods in Romania and Bulgaria
2003/2004 earthquakes in Algeria, Iran, and Morocco

At the end of the 1980s, in the aftermath of environmental disasters, the Member States of the European Communities initiated international cooperation in the area of Disaster Management. In October 2001, the EU Ministers of the Interior adopted the “Community Mechanism to facilitate reinforced cooperation in Civil Protection assistance interventions“, also referred to as the “Mechanism”. The Mechanism has been revised and strengthened three times since then.

Consolidated version of the “Union Civil Protection Mechanism” 

Police dog handlers in an operation abroad
Police dog handlers in an operation abroad
© BMI

The 37 countries participating in this Union Civil Protection Mechanism are the 27 Member States of the EU plus Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Türkiye, and Ukraine. The goal of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism is to facilitate the coordination of Civil Protection interventions in case of natural and man-made disasters.
Upon request by the affected State, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism can also apply to operations outside the Union. 

In accordance with the principle of European solidarity, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism is to be activated when the national relief capacities are overwhelmed.

Water treatment Unit of the Federal Armed Forces during floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Water treatment Unit of the Federal Armed Forces
during floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina
© Christian Resch, BMLVS

In case of disaster, the authorities in a disaster-affected area are given the possibility to quickly rely on a far-reaching network of disaster management experts, operational teams, and other resources of the European Union. In this way it is ensured that additional capacities of the EU can be brought into the affected area as quickly as possible. Through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, best practice sharing is also promoted at the European level.

The core instrument of the European Civil Protection is the Emergency Response Coordination Centre/ERCC  in Brussels. This service of the European Commission serves as central information and coordination platform. It is connected on a 24/7 basis with the contact points of the Participating States. It is responsible e.g. for the forwarding of requests and offers for assistance as well as support in transport and logistics.

As a knowledge broker, the Knowledge Network  is a tool to make relevant knowledge more accessible to the civil protection and disaster management actors, offering them a space to learn, work and grow together. As a partnership facilitator, it connects a variety of stakeholders active at different levels, from local to international, governmental to non-governmental, and from the political to the scientific and operational, organising virtual and face-to-face events and financing joint and cross-sector initiatives. It also acts as an innovation catalyst by stimulating research and facilitating the introduction and uptake of new technologies and processes in the field of civil protection and disaster management.

Department II/ORK/10 of the MOI represents Austria in the committees and working groups in the framework of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism  and is the national coordination point in the case of assistance. The Federal Alarm Center (FAC) at the Situation Room is the permanent contact point for requests for assistance.

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Bilateral disaster relief agreements

  1. Agreement between the Republic of Austria and the Republic of Albania on mutual assistance in case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBl. III Nr. 107/2011 of 7 July 2011 (6,7 KB)
  2. The agreement was signed on 27 January 2010 and became effective on 1 July 2011.
  3. Memorandum of Understanding (44,6 KB) between the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Austria and the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina on enhancing bilateral cooperation in case of natural and man-made disasters. The Memorandum was signed on 12 June 2015.
  4. Memorandum of Understanding (35,2 KB) between the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Austria and the China Earthquake Administration of the People’s Republic of China on enhancing bilateral cooperation in case of natural disasters. The Memorandum was signed on 20 May 2016.
  5. Agreement between the Republic of Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany on mutual assistance in case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBl Nr. 489/1992 of 6 August 1992 (680,5 KB)
  6. The agreement was signed on 23 December 1988 and became effective on 1 October 1992.
  7. Agreement between the Republic of Austria and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on mutual assistance in the case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBL III Nr. 119/2005 of 12 Juli 2005 (24,3 KB)
  8. The agreement was signed on 13 March 2004 and became effective on 1 May 2005.
  9. Agreement between the Repbulic of Austria and the Republic of Croatia on mutual assistance in case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBl. III Nr. 131/2006 of 31 July 2006 (17,4 KB)
  10. The agreement was signed on 17 September 2004 and became effective on 1 August 2006.
  11. Agreement between the Republic of Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein on mutual assistance in case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBl Nr. 758/1995 of 21 November 1995 (1,4 MB)
  12. The agreement was signed on 23 September 1994 and became effective on 1 January 1996.
  13. Agreement between the government of the Republic of Austria and the government of the Kingdom of Morocco on the cooperation in the field of civil protection.
    BGBl. III Nr. 90/2011 of 31 Mai 2011 (6,9 KB)
  14. The agreement was signed on 9 November 2009 and became effective on 1 October 2010.
  15. Agreement between the Republic of Austria and the Republic of Moldova on mutual assistance in case of natural or technological disasters and cooperation with respect to their prevention
    BGBl. III Nr. 226/2013 of 13 August 2013 (7 KB)
  16. The agreement was signed on 8 October 2012 and became effective on 1 October 2013.
  17. Memorandum of Understanding (2,4 MB) between the Federal Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Austria and the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief of the Russian Federation on the cooperation in the field of prevention of natural disasters and serious accidents and removal of their consequences
    The Memorandum was signed on 18 May 2006
  18. The bilateral disaster relief agreement with the Russian Federation was signed on 24 June 2014.
  19. Agreement between the Republic of Austria and the Swiss Confederation on mutual assistance in case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBL III Nr. 29/2002 of 19 February 2002 (81,5 KB)
  20. The agreement was signed on 22 March 2000 and became effective on 1 March 2002.
  21. Contract between the Republic of Austria and the Slovak Republic on the cooperation and mutual assistance in case of disasters.
    BGBl III Nr.155/1998 of 2 October 1998 (49,8 KB)
  22. The agreement was signed on 11 June 1997 and became effective on 1 November 1998.
  23. Agreement between the Republic of Austria and the Republic of Slovenia on the cooperation of prevention and mutual assistance in case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBl III Nr. 87/1998 of 3 June 1998 (64 KB)
  24. The agreement was signed on 28 June 1996 and became effective on 1 July 1998.
  25. Contract between the Republic of Austria and the Czech Republic on mutual assistance in case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBl III Nr. 215/2000 of 19 December 2000 (56,5 KB)
  26. The agreement was signed on 14 December 1998 and became effective on 1 November 2000.
  27. Agreement between the Republic of Austria and Hungary on mutual assistance in case of disasters or serious accidents.
    BGBl III Nr. 76/1998 of 15 May 1998 (47,5 KB)
  28. The agreement was signed on 26 April 1996 and became effective on 1 July 1998.
  29. Negotiations on bilateral disaster relief agreements with the Republic of Azerbaijan, Serbia, Georgia and the Republic of Tunisia are currently in progress.

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