21 febbraio 2022

The Civil Protection Code: what changes

Since January 2, 2018, the National Service has been regulated by the Civil Protection Code (Legislative Decree No. 1 of January 2, 2018), reforming all regulations in this field.

The Code was created to simplify and make civil protection provisions more straightforward by encapsulating them in a single, easy-to-read text. For simplification purposes, each article clearly explains the regulations it replaces, and the two concluding articles (Articles 47 and 48) also offer a coordination of normative references and a complete list of all regulations abrogated through the Code.

The reform reaffirms a polycentric National Service model. For this reason, the Code was written differently than other regulations. A group of representatives from the Civil Protection Department, Regions, Municipalities, Ministries, and Civil Protection Volunteers drafted it.

Therefore, the first proposal for reforming civil protection legislation resulted from a diverse group's collaborative work. The group's input influenced the collective approach taken in the development of the Code, which was achieved through open discussions on the strengths and weaknesses of previous legislation on the subject.

But why is there a need for civil protection reform? From the first regulation of "civil protection" coordination by the Minister of Public Works in 1926 to Law 225/1992 establishing the National Service, regulations and amendments have followed the country's historical development and emergencies. The desire to reform civil protection regulations comes when Law 225/1992 is 25 years old and has undergone numerous amendments. Furthermore, over time, various other regulatory bodies have added additional provisions and modifications to these regulations, thus making it extremely challenging to read and understand them. The concept of simplifying the new Code considers the complexity of the world we live in today. Civil protection regulations must also be adapted to this complexity and address it. The Code aims to ensure smooth, effective, and prompt operations by regulating forecasting, prevention, risk mitigation activities, emergency management, and recovery.

The main new features introduced by the Code are outlined below.

Regarding forecasting, the Code includes innovations related to studying possible risk scenarios. Forecasting activities are preparatory to the warning system and civil protection planning activities. About prevention activities, the evolution of the subject over time is taken into account by clarifying that the scope of prevention is both structural and nonstructural, including in an integrated manner. Nonstructural prevention consists of a range of activities. Warning and disseminating civil protection knowledge on risk scenarios and standards of behavior and civil protection planning stand out among these activities. Structural prevention is reintroduced as “structural prevention of civil protection,” underlining the existence of civil protection issues when it comes to structural prevention. The Civil Protection Department has a designated role in the discussions regarding the definition of guidelines for structural prevention. Structural risk mitigation interventions in the emergency sphere are also regulated. Finally, the need for integrated structural and nonstructural prevention actions is specified.

Before the Code, national intervention, including the activation of exceptional instruments, was subject to the declaration of a state of emergency. Preventive activation was left to the independent evaluation of the competent bodies.

The state of mobilization, introduced by Legislative Decree No. 1 of January 2, 2018, overcomes this limitation and allows the territorial system to mobilize its resources and request the contribution of national resources even before the declaration of the state of emergency. The emergency machine is set in motion if the event becomes a disaster. Otherwise, the costs sustained by those previously activated can be recognized by a unilateral act of the Head of Department.

The Code redefines the duration of a state of emergency of national importance to a maximum of 12 months, extendable by an additional 12 months.

The Code emphasizes the importance of planning and aims to move away from a narrow view of the Plan towards a more evolved vision aimed at the full operativeness of this tool.

The Code specifies the types of risks that civil protection deals with: seismic, volcanic, tsunami, hydraulic, hydrogeological, adverse weather conditions, water shortage, and forest fires. It also specifies the risks on which the National Service may be called to cooperate: chemical, nuclear, radiological, technological, industrial, transport, environmental, sanitary, uncontrolled re-entry of satellites, and space debris.

The Code clearly outlines the criteria for operating in the Civil Protection System, which considers eligible only those products deemed mature according to the rules of the scientific community. The scientific community participates in the National Service through integrated and preliminary experimental activities.

The Code codifies the function of the Centres of Competence, whose peculiarity is to make products that can be used in civil protection. With the Code, the Centres of Competence, from being tools of the Department, become tools of the entire System.

The Code introduces the concept of citizen participation as a means to increase risk awareness and promote community resilience. This participation can occur in various areas, such as vocational training, civil protection planning, and voluntary sector membership.