18 ottobre 2006

2006 Mesimex exercise

A EU-level exercise on volcanic risk in the Vesuvius area

The exercise "Mesimex 2006" - Major Emergency SIMulation EXercise - is part of the program of training activities under the European Civil Protection Mechanism.

In December 2005, the European Commission approved the Italian proposal to conduct a full-scale EU exercise on volcanic risk, to be held in the area of Vesuvius, to simulate the civil protection operations in case of a restart of Vesuvius' eruptive activity.

The exercise program, which concentrates in a few days the events and activities that, under real conditions, would take place over several weeks or months, starts from the moment the volcano's scientific monitoring and control structures report to the Civil Protection Department the occurrence of precursor phenomena that indicate a possible restart of Vesuvius' eruptive activity, Four EU member states - France, Spain, Portugal and Sweden - are actively participating in the exercise by sending experts who make up the Volcano Expert Teams (VET) and Foreigners Assistance and Support Teams (FAST).

The national coordination of the exercise is entrusted to the National Department of Civil Protection, as provided by Law No. 225 of 1992.

The international exercise Mesimex 2006 takes place from October 18 to 23, 2006 in Campania Region.

Once the Council of Ministers Presidency declares a state of emergency, a sample of about 2 thousand residents are evacuated from the red zone.
In fact, the emergency plan provides for the evacuation of the population from the area at highest risk (red zone) , before the eruption starts.
Civil Protection experts provide assistance and provide for transportation of the residents, both Italians and foreigners, to the checkpoint areas, where, beyond receiving relief supplies, they are informed about the ongoing civil protection activities. From these areas, later, the Italian population is guided to the twinned regions as provided in the emergency plan, while foreign nationals following the evacuation plan of the FAST teams are repatriated or guided to other destinations.

The eruptive phase and areas at risk

Vesuvius has been in a state of quiescence since 1944. In case of reactivation, a Sub-Plinian eruption would occur, therefore taken as a reference in the NEPVA Plan.
The scenario associated with a Sub-Plinian eruption envisages the phenomena below and the related risks: according to this scenario, the territory has been divided into three zones: 'red zone,' 'yellow zone' and 'blue zone'.

In the early phase of the eruption, a sustained eruptive column made up of gas and pyroclastic fragments, 15-20 km high, causes the grounding of pumice, lapilli and ash transported by the wind. The risk is related to the density and load exerted by the pyroclastic blanket, which can overload the roofs of buildings, causing collapse. Further risks are related to breathing problems due to the high concentration of fine particles in the air, contamination of crops and water, difficulties in using escape routes and traffic jams (yellow zone).

In the following phase, the eruptive column collapses, generating pyroclastic flows with clouds of gas and suspended particles, which can reach speeds of 100 km/h, and may have enormous destructive power. Physical and numerical models indicate that once the eruptive column collapses, the pyroclastic flow will take 5 to 10 minutes to reach the sea, destroying its surroundings. The area exposed to this risk is defined (red zone).

The risk of the third phase is related to the generation of mudflows ('lahars') during and after the eruption. These are extremely rapid and dense debris flows generated by the rain that dries up the pyroclastic material deposited along the steep slopes of the volcano and the Apennine reliefs located downwind. 
The lahars have a great destructive power that determines the evacuation of the population in the areas exposed to risk. In the Plan, these areas are defined as blue zones. They coincide with the red zone when near the volcano, but also cover those parts of the yellow zone located on the steep downwind slopes that may be affected by significant falls of pyroclastic material.

Eruption monitoring and forecasting system

The Vesuvius Emergency Plan's success depends on the ability to forecast its eruption. In a quiescent volcano, such as Vesuvius, the transition from resting state to eruption will be preceded and accompanied by a series of precursor phenomena, such as
- Ground deformation (with both vertical and horizontal movements) produced by the pressure exerted by the rising magma.
- Abnormal seismicity generated by fractures produced by magma pressure. The National Emergency Plan includes an assessment of the damage caused by possible earthquakes in the pre-earthquake phase, which can damage the road network to evacuate the red zone.
- Increased flow of volatile components reaching the surface and changes in the temperature of fumaroles and the chemical and isotopic composition of hot springs, aquifers and fumarolic gases.
- Anomalies in the gravimetric, magnetic and electric fields of the Earth's crust produced by rising magma.
The Vesuvius Monitoring System is advanced and capable of systematically recording all relevant chemical and physical variables.
The monitoring networks are managed by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) through the Vesuvius Observatory (OV). The OV surveillance system is in close contact with the Civil Protection Department, which receives timely communication of all relevant information on the status of volcanic activity.

The Mesimex 2006 exercise concerns the preparatory phase of a volcanic emergency in the area of Vesuvius.
In particular, it follows the evolution of Vesuvius activity from the phase of declaration of the level of attention until the evacuation of the population from the area at risk, before the eruption of the volcano begins. The aim is to verify and improve emergency procedures and define a common emergency management model.

Also, the efficiency of the EU Member States' response through the intervention model of the Volcano Expert Teams (VET) and the Foreigners Assistance and Support Teams (FAST) is tested for the first time.

Objectives of the exercise:

  • test the procedures of the European Civil Protection Mechanism;
  • involve participating countries (France, Spain, Portugal and Sweden), both in the preparatory phase and during the exercise through the creation of a network of experts and the comparison of different intervention methodologies;
  • share, through the use of VET teams, the technical-scientific experience by sharing different working methods and strengthening the network of research centres;
  • deepen knowledge of emergency management and Civil Protection systems in the event of a major volcanic emergency;
  • test the activation and coordination of the structures of the diplomatic network during an emergency situation and the ability to locate and assist foreign nationals present in the area at risk through the deployment of FAST teams;
  • test the activities between EU liaison officers in managing relations between diplomatic offices and the Directorate of Command and Control (Di.Coma.C);
  • spread information on volcanic risk to the population and schools, increasing awareness of the Vesuvius National Emergency Plan and its alert levels;
  • to improve cooperation between EU Member States in the field of Civil Protection by addressing the issues emerged during the exercise;
  • show the potential of the European Civil Protection through interactive videos and spread knowledge about emergency response capabilities among European countries;
  • improve the reception, deployment and coordination capabilities of international teams and experts;
  • test the intervention model for safeguarding cultural heritage in the area at risk.


Considering Vesuvius' eruptive history, it is expected that, should activity restart within a few decades, the next eruption would be a sub-Plinian explosive eruption.

The scenario that experts deem as possible is that of the initial formation of an eruptive column several kilometres high (15 to 20), with the fall of volcanic bombs and blocks in the surrounding area of the crater, and smaller particles (ash and lapilli) up to tens of kilometres away, in the direction of the prevailing wind; later, the collapse of the column causes pyroclastic flows to flow down the slopes of the volcano for a few kilometres, reaching the sea in a few minutes.

Another dangerous phenomenon that can be expected in this scenario is the generation of mudflows (lahar) due to the precipitation of ashes deposited on the steepest slopes of the areas downwind of the volcano.


18 October

  • According to the variation in the values of the parameters relating to the activity of Vesuvius recorded by the Vesuvius Observatory and on the basis of data analysis and technical-scientific evaluations of the Central Functional Centre, the Civil Protection Department declares the transition to the phase of attention, informs the various components and operational structures of the National Service of Civil Protection and requests the Mic - Monitoring and Information Centre - the immediate dispatch of teams of experts in volcanic risk. 
  • The teams of Italian volcanologists carry out inspections and field surveys.
  • The Prefecture of Naples - Government Territorial Office - activates the Ccs (Relief Coordination Centre), which works together with the Campania Region Operations Room to provide the necessary support to the Mayors of the municipalities in the red zone.  
  • The municipalities in the red zone activate their Municipal Operations Centres.
  • Teams of European volcanic risk experts arrive.

19 October

  • Integrated Vet teams carry out field and laboratory investigations. 
  • Following the change in the values of the monitored parameters and on the basis of the data analysis and technical-scientific evaluations, the Civil Protection Department declares the transition to the early warning phase, informs the various components and operational structures of the National Service and convenes the Civil Protection Operating Committee. 
  • The Operating Committee orders the activation of the national operating structures and regional mobile columns according to the twinning plan for the Vesuvius area and asks the MIc to send teams of European experts (FAST) to assist foreign citizens present in the red zone. 
  • The Council of Ministers declares a state of national emergency and appoints the Head of the Civil Protection Department 'Delegate Commissioner for the management of the emergency'. 
  • The National Command and Control Directorate (Dicomac) is set up at the Prefecture of Naples - Government Territorial Office, in order to coordinate activities on site.

20 October

  • Prosegue l'attività dei Vet.
  • Funzionari delle Regioni gemellate raggiungono i Centri Operativi Comunali (COC) per garantire il necessario raccordo operativo.
  • Le squadre Fast arrivano all'aeroporto di Napoli Capodichino e danno avvio alle attività in contatto con le proprie sedi diplomatiche.
  • Cominciano ad arrivare le colonne mobili regionali presso le aree di check point da allestire per fornire assistenza alla popolazione che deve essere evacuata, qualora scattasse la fase di allarme.
  • Le organizzazioni nazionali di volontariato allestiscono sul territorio napoletano la propria base logistica per fornire supporto ai Comuni.

21 October

  • The work of the Vets continues.
  • Officials from the twin regions reach the Municipal Operations Centres (COCs) to ensure the necessary operational connection.
  • The Fast teams arrive at Naples Capodichino airport and start activities in contact with their diplomatic offices.
  • Regional mobile columns arrive at the checkpoint areas to be prepared to provide assistance to the population that must evacuate, should the alarm phase be activated.
  • The national voluntary organisations set up their logistical base in the Naples area to provide support to the municipalities.

22 October

  • Following further changes in the values of the monitored parameters and on the basis of the data analysis and technical-scientific evaluations, the Head of the Civil Protection Department declares the transition to the alarm phase.
  • The Di.Coma.C deploys the evacuation plan.
  • The municipalities proceed with the evacuation of the red zone.
  • The evacuated population reaches the check point areas where they are registered and receive information and assistance. 
  • The Fast Teams are active in the check point areas to assist the evacuees present.
  • During the evening, having detected a return to the monitored parameters and on the basis of the data analysis and technical-scientific evaluations, the Head of the Department declares the end of the warning phase and the return to the attention phase.

The simulation ends with the return of the evacuated population to their home municipalities, the closure of the operations and coordination centres and the end of the Operations Committee's activities.

23 October

  • For the national and European teams and all international observers, the exercise ends with a workshop and subsequent debriefing.

Within the framework of the exercises, the Voluntary Service is called upon to carry out many important tasks, as an operational structure of the National Civil Protection System provided for by Article 11 of Law 225/92. The components of the Voluntary Service support the Department and the regional institutions during the exercise, providing an essential contribution to the success of the operations. The support functions are the individual responses that must be organised in any type of national emergency and are activated in the Command and Control Department (Di.Coma.C.)

Voluntary Service

The national voluntary organisations are responsible for setting up a logistical area to support the local Civil Protection system to meet the needs for assistance to the population or of a technical character that may arise during the emergency.
In particular, the area must be equipped with camp facilities such as tents, a kitchen and a dining hall; a secretariat for coordinating the volunteer teams; an advanced medical post (PMA) and all the necessary support structures for the municipalities (social-health, emergency telecommunications, safeguarding of cultural heritage, etc.).

Local volunteer organisations, integrated with national volunteer resources, are assigned to provide assistance to the population in the critical phases of the evacuation up to the departure areas, gathering areas for the evacuated citizens identified by the individual municipalities where a health post will be present.
From these areas with the support of the volunteers and, where necessary, with the help of special transport vehicles, the population will be transferred to the check-points, 6 areas set up by the Regions to respect the twinning of Vesuviud  municipalities with the Italian Regions under the Vesuvius National Plan. The check-points are located outside the Vesuvius red zone, in safe territories with respect to the evolution of the expected volcanic activity, such as to ensure the first assistance to the evacuated population.

Within each check-point operate the voluntary associations belonging to the respective regional mobile columns. In the 6 areas, medical assistance must be ensured through the support of an advanced medical post (PMA), first aid supplies and any useful information concerning the emergency. From the check-points, transfers of the population to the twinned regions will be started at a later stage. 
Finally, representatives of national organisations will be part of the team of observers called upon to evaluate the operations of the Mesimex exercise together with other representatives of components and operational structures of the National Civil Protection Service.

Support Functions
Support functions are the individual responses that must be organised in any type of national emergency and are activated in the Directorate of Command and Control.
Each individual function has its head responsible to keep up to date in "peacetime" and in the event of a national emergency becomes the expert who supports the Commissioner Delegate in setting up the Di.Coma.C. in the area of intervention.

In the Di.Coma.C. established for Mesimex, 14 functions are activated:

1. Scientific Technical - Planning
2. Health-social assistance - Veterinary
3. Mass-media and information
4. Volunteering
5. Materials and equipment
6. Transport-circulation and roads
7. Telecommunications
8. Essential services
9. Census of damage, persons, property
10. S.a.R. operational structures
11. Local authorities
12. Dangerous materials
13. Logistics evacuated-host areas
14. Coordination of operational centres

In the framework of the Mesimex 2006 exercise, the following functions: technical-scientific planning, essential services and census of personal and property damage, were activated at the SORU - Sala Operativa Regionale Unificata of the Campania Region, while the others operated at Di.Coma.C.

1 - Technical Scientific - Planning
National research groups and national technical services are present, depending on the type and level of the emergency. The contact person is the representative of the Civil Protection Department, Forecasting and Prevention Service, who has to maintain and coordinate all the relations between the various scientific and technical components operating during the emergency.

2 - Health and Social Assistance
Represented by the head of the Civil Protection Department, Health Emergency Service, who must support the local health service representative.

3 - Media and Information
The Press Room must be set up in a different venue from the Di.Coma.C.. It is the responsibility of the press officer to establish the schedule and procedures for daily meetings with the media representatives present in the area of operations. For information to the public, in agreement with the Deputy Commissioner, it is the duty of the press officer to disseminate the news through the mass media.
In particular, it is important to 

  • publicise the activities that are being carried out; 
  • create announcements; make press releases; carry out spots and press campaigns
  • organise daily press conferences.

4 - Voluntary work
The tasks of the volunteer organisations, in an emergency, are identified in the Civil Protection plans in relation to the type of risk to address, the nature and specificity of the activities carried out by the organisation and the means at their disposal. Therefore, the coordinator indicated in the Civil Protection plan will take his place in the operations room, which is identified with the head, or his delegate, of the Civil Protection Department's Voluntary Service.

5 - Materials and equipment
The materials and equipment function is of primary importance in tackling an emergency of any kind. It is managed by the head, or his delegate, of the Civil Protection Department's Materials and Resources Service. It involves having a picture of the resources, divided by storage areas, and their availability. For each resource, the type of transport and the arrival time in the intervention area must be foreseen. The materials and equipment that are in any case available and normally belonging to the Armed Forces, the Ministry of the Interior, the CRI, local administrations, volunteers and private companies contribute to the management of this function.

6 - Transport, circulation and roads
Transport is closely linked to the handling of materials, the transfer of vehicles, optimising flows along escape routes and the operation of access gates, to regulate the flow of rescuers. This support function must necessarily work closely with the head of the 'Operational Structures' function. For the part concerning circulation and traffic activities, the coordinator is normally the representative of the Traffic Police or his deputy; the Road Police, the Carabinieri and the Traffic Police also take part in this activity: the first two for their dual aspect of judicial police and guardians of the law and the others for their undisputed suitability in managing the function in a local emergency. If the personnel available on site are not sufficient, volunteers could also be employed both as traffic wardens and as coordinators of transit routes or circulation trunks by means of radio amateurs and other specialities. Joint exercises between the various forces should be planned in order to verify and optimise the exact flow along the various routes.

7 - Telecommunications
The coordinator of this function is the person in charge, or his delegate, of the Civil Protection Department's TLC service, who works together with the Telecom territorial manager, the provincial P.T. manager and the representative of the amateur radio association present in the area to organise a reliable telecommunication network even in the event of an event of considerable seriousness. The Civil Protection Department TLC centre will ensure the connection between the area affected by the event and the Department by means of alternative emergency systems (INMARSAT satellite system - ARGO satellite system).

8 - Essential Services
Representatives of all the essential services provided in the area involved will take part in this function and an expert from a Municipal Authority or other local administration will be in charge through the Territorial Compartments and the corresponding national or regional operations rooms to keep the situation constantly updated on the efficiency and interventions on the network. The deployment of personnel to restore lines and/or utilities is in any case coordinated by their representative in the Operations Room. Any deployment of personnel and means must be coordinated by the head of the Operations Room and the prefect (deployment of special means, use of snowploughs, etc.).

9 - Census of damage and persons
Carrying out a census of damage to people and property is of particular importance in order to take a general picture of the situation following the calamitous event and to determine the emergency interventions on the basis of the results in the summary sheets. Responsibility for this function should be assigned to the head, or his delegate, of the Civil Protection Department's Public Works Emergency Office. The person in charge of the above function, upon the occurrence of the calamitous event, will have to carry out a damage census referring to

  • people
  • public buildings
  • private buildings
  • industrial plants
  • essential services
  • productive activities
  • works of cultural interest
  • public infrastructure
  • agriculture and animal husbandry
  • other

For the census of the above, the coordinator of this function will make use of

  • officials from the Municipality's Technical Office or the Civil Engineers;
  • experts from the health, industrial and commercial sectors

it is also possible to employ mixed teams of technicians from the National Fire Department, Public Works Service, Civil Engineering or the intervention of the Scientific Community for verification of stability, which will have to be carried out in a short time frame.

10 - S.a.R. operational structures
The person in charge of this function, an official of the Ministry of the Interior, will have to coordinate the various components, listed below, made up of representatives of the Civil Protection National Service (S.a.R.), who are present at all the CCS (Relief Coordination Centre) and COMs (Mixed Operations Centre):

  • National Fire Department
  • Armed Forces
  • Police Forces
  • State Forestry Corps
  • National Technical Services
  • National Scientific Research Groups
  • Italian Red Cross
  • National Health Service Structures
  • Voluntary organisations
  • National Rescue Corps

11 - Local Authorities
In relation to the event, the person in charge of the function must be in possess of the documentation concerning all the contact persons of each Entity and Administration in the area affected by the event. The person in charge from the Region may be identified as the person in charge of this function.

12 - Dangerous materials
The storage of dangerous materials, the census of notifiable and declarable industries or other dangerous activities that may trigger further damage to the population after a destructive event of various kinds, will be previously assessed and the potential danger to the population already affected, studied. Responsibility for this function may be assigned to the National Fire Department.

13 - Assistance to the population
In order to address the needs of the population resulting homeless as a result of the calamitous event, accommodation areas must be organised on site or in other safe areas for the homeless and provide them with the necessary services to face the period of the emergency and the recovery phase. An official from the local administrative authority with knowledge and expertise in housing stock, the accommodation of tourist facilities (hotels, campsites, etc.) and the search for and use of public and private areas to host the homeless should preside over this function. The official will have to provide an overview of the availability of accommodation materials and dialogue with the authorities responsible for issuing the necessary acts for making available public and private accommodation facilities or areas. With regard to the food aspect, a constant flow of foodstuffs must be guaranteed, their storage and distribution to the assisted population. A national and local census of the various food production and/or distribution companies must also be carried out.

14 - Coordination of operations centres
The operations room coordinator, who manages the 14 support functions, will also be responsible for this function as the coordinator will have knowledge of the operations of other operations centres located throughout the territory in order to guarantee maximum coordination of rescue operations in the emergency area by organising the resources of people and materials. The heads of the 14 support functions will therefore be able to keep the national emergency plan efficient at all times. This allows the Commissioner Delegate, at the time of his appointment, to avail himself of experts, even from different Authorities or Administrations, who already know each other and work on the national plan; this will lead to greater operational effectiveness between the "components" and the "operational structures". The head of function 14 will also assume the role of coordinator of the remaining 13 support functions and will be identified as an official of the Civil Protection Department or the Ministry of the Interior.

Securing and recovery of movable property in the Roman Villa in Somma Vesuviana

Reason for and purpose of the intervention Volcanological studies conducted on the Vesuvius have confirmed that the reference event to set as the basis for emergency planning, in the event of reactivation of the volcano, is a sub-Plinian eruption similar to those that occurred in 472 AD and 1631. It was deemed useful and necessary to include within the Mesimex exercise, an initial intervention to secure and recover archaeological assets.The Superintendency for Archaeological Heritage for the provinces of Naples and Caserta suggested that the intervention be carried out in the Roman Villa in Somma Vesuviana, which has been under excavation since 2001 by the University of Tokyo and is located right inside the red zone. The intervention envisages the transport of cultural assets that can be transported to a safe area and on-site protection for precious objects that cannot be removed.

Expected eruptive phenomena at the villa. Computer simulations of potential 'pyroclastic flows' carried out by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Pisa in collaboration with 'Cineca' in Bologna, have shown that the presence of the natural barrier of Monte Somma could, under certain conditions essentially linked to the morphology of the crater as well as the intensity of the hypothesised eruption, partially reduce the effects on the buildings.However, historical evidence of past eruptions, such as that of 472 AD, show that the area in which the Villa is located has a significant probability of being affected by phenomena of various kinds.

In particular, it is estimated that for an event of the "Subplinian I" type (slightly inferior to that of Pompeii in AD 79), the area could be affected by earthquakes with an intensity of between grade VI and VII on the Mercalli scale, by a conspicuous fall of ash (approximately 2,000 kg/sq.m.) and by high-temperature pyroclastic flows (between 250 and 300 degrees).

The exercise, organised by the G.LA.BE.C. (Inter-Ministerial Working Group for the Protection and Prevention of Cultural Heritage from Natural Risks), is being carried out by special S.A.F. (speleo- alpine-fluvial) teams of the Fire Brigade and Legambiente volunteers highly specialised in the recovery and protection of cultural heritage, under the guidance of the Superintendency for Archaeological Heritage for the provinces of Naples and Caserta.

Securing activities, include:

  • the identification of a location for the storage of the movable assets to be secured, in a location outside the "red zone";
  • packing and transport of the archaeological material to the repository;
  • reinforcement by surrounding four columns that cannot be removed;
  • recovery of two marble statues, one of which depicts the young Dionysus with a panther cub in his arms. They will be brought to the surface by cable car from a depth of approximately 10 metres.
  • protection with a screen of high-temperature resistant material of a portion of the paintings; testing of the effectiveness of the screening by the 'Plinivs-Lupt' study centre of the Federico II University of Naples.