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OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies: Italy 2010

Review of the Italian National Civil Protection System

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This OECD review of risk management policies focuses on the Italian civil protection system and its means to prepare for and react to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, landslides and even volcanoes. The Italian National Civil Protection Service can rapidly mobilise operational resources for emergency management and recovery both at home, throughout Europe and around the world. Its components constantly research known hazards to better understand and model vulnerabilities, while technical experts co-operate in real time to monitor events as they unfold and operate the early warning systems. These professionals are supported by a highly organised and motivated volunteer service unseen elsewhere in OECD countries. What makes these many parts of the civil protection system work as one effective whole, however, is its governance structure under the direct authority of the Italian Prime Minister.  

Recent years have seen a steep increase in the frequency and economic impacts of disasters, and Italy has been no exception. In addition to increased seasonal variance linked to climate change, the devastating earthquakes around L’Aquilla in 2009 make Italy a case study for policy-makers, emergency management practitioners, academics and international organisations who are searching for solutions, notably in the areas of disaster damage reduction policies. The Italian civil protection system offers a rich source of best practices for their consideration. The National Department of Civil Protection in particular, as the hub of the National Civil Protection Service, provides a model of professionalism and leadership. The review report also identifies many challenges facing the Italian civil protection system and areas where improvements are still needed.

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Governance and organisational structure

Civil protection is used to describe organised action aimed at coping with collective threats caused by natural or human induced disasters. In Italy, a unique system of civil protection evolved gradually over the course of the 20th century from basic legislation that first instituted a permanent fire brigade. Like many countries, the governance of civil protection was born of local necessity, but involves central government services when events exceed local capabilities to manage them. Over the past 100 years successive legislative acts have often followed major natural disasters that made clear the need for permanent institutions to manage and lead the many civil protection capacities found throughout various ministries, levels of government, scientific institutes, industry and volunteer associations; from forest fire fighters and the national police to volcanic monitoring and canine units.

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