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Information about civil defence

Civil defence is an umbrella term for public and private measures to protect the population in a case of defence. Civil defence is regarded worldwide as a humanitarian task, and enjoys special protection under international law.

In order to regulate this area, an additional protocol to the fourth Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva, 27 July 1929, contains provisions establishing the special protection of civil defence facilities and staff, together with an internationally-standard civil defence symbol.

In accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, competence for legislation in the field of civil defence lies with the Federation. The law is however largely enforced by the Federal Länder in administration by delegated authority. The tasks of the Federation are carried out by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, by other ministries within their remit, by the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance and by the Technisches Hilfswerk (THW).

Risk aversion in peace times and remedying damage in the event of a disaster or in similar emergencies are by contrast a matter for the Laender, which maintain amongst other things civil protection procedures for this purpose.

Civil defence, which also encompasses preventive protection measures, which already have to be prepared and carried out in peacetime, is integrated into civil defence as follows:
Civil defence embraces all areas of life, and may not be understood as a merely task for the State to carry out. It will always rely on self-help and individual initiative. The Civil Defence Act of 1997 underlines the significance of self-help of the population by virtue of mentioning it explicitly in section 1, which states as follows:

”Official measures shall supplement the self-help of the population”.
In accordance with the Civil Defence Act of 1997, civil defence includes the following tasks:

  • self-protection,
  • alerting the population,
  • protective structures,
  • regulation of residence,
  • civil protection,
  • health-protection measures, and
  • measures to protect cultural property

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