The health risk emerges every time critical situations possibly affecting human health are created. Difficult to foresee, it can be mitigated by preparing and planning medical assistance in emergencies beforehand, in a quieter period. In the chain of medical assistance during catastrophes, the Department only acts if the local organizations are unable to deal with the event with their own resources.

The Department has outlined the “General criteria for organizing rescue work in catastrophes” published in 2001, followed by “General criteria for medicines and medical devices to be kept in a first aid post (Pma II liv.(Fap))” in 2003, by the “General criteria for psychosocial treatment in catastrophes” in 2006 to identify goals and joint organization schemes for psychological and psychiatric assistance during a catastrophe, and "Procedures and forms of medical triage” (patients subdivided by seriousness and treatment priority) published in 2007.

The Civil Protection Department also took part in drawing up civil protection norms at European level, with the purpose of standardizing, speeding up and rendering the actions of the various European civil protection systems more effective.

Said health risk-related activities also include psychosocial projects with the purpose of helping people to know and deal with the risks in their territory and to lend their assistance in returning to normal living conditions. The Over the last few years the Department has been developing a series of activities, particularly focused on assisting people with disabilities, through seminars, conferences and practical experience.

A risk to health is difficult to foresee being subsequent to other risks and calamities; planning medical and psychosocial actions in emergencies in quieter times is however particularly important to reduce the time in responding and to prevent or limit harm to persons. Practical experience in civil protection provides an opportunity to test the urgent medical assistance procedures and to see how the camp facilities effectively work in emergencies. The activities of information and education for the population also contribute towards prevention as they reinforce the actions required to impede and handle emergencies in the best way, curbing the damaging effects of the events.

Presidio medicoEmergency planning. The “General criteria for medical assistance in catastrophes” are the instrument used by the civil protection Department to operate emergency medical assistance, even though the regional health systems are left with their own organizational independence. These criteria establish the emergency plans both for events which local systems are capable of dealing with as well as for those exceeding their responsive capacity – type C events – requiring the coordination of the Civil Protection System.

Local bodies are responsible for identifying the risks mainly affecting their territory to improve the organization of medical assistance and identify the possibility of risks associated with the principal risks, e.g. epidemics, accidents with loss of radioactive or dangerous materials, etc. Various consequences may be evaluated even when planning the responses, such as the effects of potential secondary disasters on persons or places at risk, e.g. dams or chemical plants. The variables of specific interest to characterize disasters are:

• frequency;
• intensity;
• territorial extension;
• duration;
• seasonal factors;
• rapidity of occurrence;
• possibility of forewarning.

Information and communication. It is just as important to initiate information and education activities for the population on first aid operations and on effective strategies for dealing with stress and critical situations. Experience has in fact demonstrated that the local people are the only ones to deal with the first hours after a disaster and that the great majority of the survivors are saved either because they are unharmed or because they had been rescued by casual rescue workers immediately after the event. Information activities are likewise important to improve the knowledge of risks in the territory in order to prevent and mitigate possible negative effects on health.

In relation to health risks, in 2004 the Civil Protection Department started up a system to monitor heatwaves, recording summer periods with prolonged high temperatures liable to cause health problems, especially for the more vulnerable persons.


Heat waves system