The rapid evolution of human societies, the increased industrialisation and urbanisation, resulting in the high concentration of the majority of people in urban areas, and the continued degradation of the environment, have increased the vulnerability of our societies to major natural disasters. In addition, man-made disasters are becoming more and more common. This is why Civil Defence has become an important term in our society.
When the Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960, organised civil defence was non-existent. The need for the creation of an organised and effective civil defence force became apparent in 1964, after the village of Tillyria was bombed by the Turkish air force. The relevant Law was passed and ratified in the same year by the House of Representatives and included provisions regarding the establishment and organisation of civil defence forces and services on an obligatory or voluntary basis, the training and education of citizens in civil defence issues, the supply, acquisition and storage of civil defence material, the construction of shelters, as well as the requisition and purchase or lease of movable, or immovable property. In 1966, the House of Representatives adopted the regulations issued by the Council of Ministers and, together with subsequent amendments, formed the basis of the establishment of the Civil Defence Force in Cyprus. The Civil Defence Law was amended in 1996 and new General Civil Defence Regulations were enacted in 1997 in order to reorganize and reinforce the Republic’s civil defence system.
Based on this legislation, the mission of Cyprus’ Civil Defence is to undertake various humanitarian tasks, intended to protect and enable the civilian population to recover from the immediate effects of hostilities or disasters, as well as to provide the necessary conditions/prerequisites for its survival during such events. More specifically, the term “Civil Defence” includes a range of measures aimed at mitigating or preventing, as far as possible, the consequences of disasters. These measures are taken in cooperation with the public and the services and organisations that have been declared as “Essential”, under Civil Defence Regulations.
In order to improve the level of services it provides, the Civil Defence Department takes the necessary measures and avails itself of opportunities for improvement, in order to fulfil its mission more effectively. Such measures include trainings, enhancement of the institution of volunteerism and involving them in its actions, improving existing educational programs and taking advantage of technological advancement. With the above mentioned measures, the Civil Defence Department aims to ensure that it will be able to operate efficiently, with the least possible financial cost, and that the implementation of the various Civil Defence Action Plans will be facilitated.
For example, revised educational programs have been prepared for the members of each of the five Civil Defence Departments that operate in each District (Department of Urban Search and Rescue, of Welfare, of Neighbourhood Watch, First Aid and Telecommunications) and which are staffed by citizens serving on an obligatory or voluntary basis.
The Civil Defence Main Command Centre, which operates since 2002 on a 24-hour basis, plays an important role in effectively receiving and transmitting relevant information, thereby facilitating authorities to coordinate an appropriate response to disasters. This Centre coordinates all Civil Defence activities during operations and continuously monitors developments. Among other things, it observes and controls the Pancyprian Siren Warning System which was established in 2002. It allows the control and activation of all, some, or even one of the sirens at any given time and has the ability to transmit both alarm and voice messages. In addition, the Civil Defence Main Command Centre is linked to the Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Civil Protection in Brussels.
The Republic of Cyprus participates in the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism that facilitates a country’s request of assistance and coordinates an appropriate response, which could also include assistance from experts on civil protection issues, through an extended community network. It also allows Civil Defence staff to attend relevant educational as well as technical assistance and best practices programmes that provide added value.
Civil defence website: www.moi.gov.cy/cd
Email address: email@example.com
Telephone number: 22403413