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Cyprus Civil Defence & Disaster management arrangements

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CCD - Cyprus Civil Defence

All the powers regarding Civil Defence belong to the Council of Ministers and the Minister of Interior acting on behalf of the Council, who is responsible for the implementation of the laws and regulations with overall supervision and control. His task is to undertake the co-ordination of the services and organisations, which are declared as 'essential'. The Civil Defence Law in Cyprus was amended and consolidated in 1996, with new laws enacted in 1997 to
re-organise and strengthen the whole system of the Republic.

The Mandate refers to the term 'disaster' as a destructive incident occurring anywhere in the sovereignty of the Republic as a result of a natural disaster, an earthquake, landslide, flood, cyclone, storm or sea storm or other calamity, accident or technological nature, fire, explosion, epidemic, accident, shipwreck, or other incidents considered of a more serious nature to the extent of which causes or may cause damage to the environment or the naturalresources of the Republic. Droughts, although not termed a 'disaster' factor in Cyprus, are becoming more frequent events with adverse impacts on the economy, social life and on the environment.

During the period 1990-2005, Cyprus suffered from three meteorological drought events, one in the period 1990-1992, one in the period 1997-2000 and one in the period 2004-2006. The first two meteorological droughts were followed by acute water shortage and affected the total population of the area under the control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, whereas the third did not develop into hydrological drought, because the precedent years were relatively wet and the surface reservoirs were filled with water.

During the hot summer months where temperatures can exceed 40C, forest fires frequently break out, often spread at a frightening speed by high winds. As most of the areas concerned are remote and inaccessible, and also for a prompt response, in addition to the regular fire services, the Cypriot government has two Russian built helicopters and a fire fighting light aircraft on standby.

Each helicopter has large capacity water buckets, which can be refilled in flight from the any of the reservoirs on the island. Fresh water only is used to fight the fires, as seawater might damage the local trees and plants. The light aircraft has 'crop spraying' type water jets on its wings, in addition to water tanks on its belly. This method of extinguishing fires is most effective and even a large blaze can be brought under control in a short time. In addition to these resources the British RAF (84 Sqn Akrotiri) also has Griffin helicopters with fire fighting capability on standby, to assist if called upon In the case of war or disaster, requiring mass mobilisation of human resources, the Minister of Interior may declare a State of Civil Defence for 48 hours. An extension to this period requires the approval from the House of Representatives.

Civil Defence is not a direct response force (as is the Police or Fire Service); it is prepared to act and provide assistance to other services in the event of a major disaster. Despite this, the Civil Defence Rescue Department is organised to respond immediately, if the remaining authorised State Services require assistance, to respond to emergencies. The Rescue Teams undergo training and exercise in equipped training grounds, but they also participate in fire fighting situations and water pumping during floods.

There are 80 permanent staff members of the Civil Defence Force. 850 people serving under specific arrangements, 250 of them are members of the USAR teams. They serve for five years under special terms and they are obliged to follow the Civil Defence Law and Regulations. 7000 conscripts serve two years of obligatory service. Women are obliged to serve when they reach the age of 18. Men are obliged to serve after finishing their reserve Military Service. The basic elements within the organisational programme are the expansion of organised Civil Defence units in almost all the non-occupied Turkish Forces residential areas.

Siren Alert

In any emergency call 112.

The supply and installation of a new warning system covering the whole island, the establishment of a new central information and operation control centre with 24-hour access, connected with the single number 112, which is already operated by the police simultaneously with the previously used number 199, is essential to operations.

Civil Defence has set up an electronic siren network in towns and communities, to warn the population in the event of a threat of a natural disaster or hostile air activities. The siren network has the ability to sound the alarm, to send a mobilisation signal and to send sound messages. When the sirens sound, citizens are obliged to follow both Civil Defence instructions and those of other Essential Services relevant to the disaster.

Units in urban areas and most villages are manned by conscripts and volunteers, who are provided with basic training, to service the divisions for first aid, welfare, fire fighting, rescue, neighbourhood watch and telecommunications. On the basis of International Humanitarian Law, of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, Civil Defence enjoys International Protection in the event of international armed conflicts. The Civil Defence international distinctive emblem appears on all personnel uniforms, cars and equipment of all essential services of the Republic, carrying out duties at the time of disaster.

Cyprus, located in eastern Mediterranean, far away from Europe, has always been a deteriorating factor in its struggles to face different disasters. Very often, the few resources were not enough to confront a disaster. Since the island's declaration of independence in 1960, the Republic of Cyprus has set up its own mechanism in dealing with natural and man caused disasters. The philosophy upon which it operates, is one based on mobilising and utilising the whole
population in case of a disaster. It has a small number of paid professionals and a good number of volunteer part time officers. In addition to the members of CCD, all citizens of the Republic are obliged to serve a two-year mandatory period. Overall, the CCD members account to about 10,000, for 800,000 of population.

Civilian Measures

The CCD improvement and training programmes open days and the promotion of awareness of emergency procedures aims to comfort civilians in the knowledge that Cyprus is prepared. Citizens are advised to record the emergency number 112 and display it in homes, hotels, airports, restaurants and public venues. Additionally to take responsibility to have a least one household member trained in first aid. Relevant to operating a command centre on a 24hour basis, is a connection to the Monitoring and Information Centre of the European Union and for the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).

The Cyprus Civil Defence is the only competent body in Cyprus for policy development and concrete implementation linked to the full disaster management cycle (prevention-preparedness-response-recovery). The European Commission's experts in civil protection are in contact with several Member States and work to co-ordinate the provision of the rescue. The European Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response among 31 European states (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

The participating countries pool the resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world. When activated, the Mechanism co-ordinates the provision of assistance inside and outside the European Union. The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC). There are a number of natural occurrences, which can turn into major incidents and disasters and threaten human life on the island. The most common are droughts with Cyprus regularly suffering problems with shortage of water and along with Malta, they are considered the 'water poor countries of Europe'.

Water scarcity has been a problem in Cyprus for centuries and history shows successfully civilian evacuations due to the water shortages. The island also now benefits from desalination plants, although the benefits have to be set against the negativity of high- energy usage to run the plants. As a direct opposite of droughts, are storms and the island has suffered with Tornadoes causing severe damage. Also, some severe flooding has occurred in recent years, with lighting strikes causing damage to electrical appliances. During the hot summer months the island suffers from numerous fires with most appearing to be caused either deliberately or by negligence.

It appears that when natural disasters are discussed relating to Cyprus, our thoughts turn to the issue of earthquakes, with Cyprus located in the second most active earthquake zone on earth. The good news is, that it is in the least active section of the zone. Throughout the year, there are many recorded tremors, with the most seismic threat coming from what is known as the Cyprian Arc.

lt appears that little is known about the Cyprian Arc, although it is believed to pass along the south coast of Cyprus, although alternative research believes it may pass across Cyprus.

There is a seismic monitoring network established in Cyprus, which comprises of seven seismic stations, two relay stations and twenty nine accelerometer stations. The headquarters are in Nicosia at the Geological Survey building, which serves as the recording station. According to Government figures there are five hundred local events and one hundred regional earthquakes recorded each year. The history of the island indicates that the more powerful earthquakes have destroyed cities. Earthquakes on the Richter scale measuring 5.5 occur every 26 years, with earthquakes above 6 on the Richter, occurring every 75 years.

Paphos is considered the high risk area, with the last three major earthquakes occurring in 1953 which measured 6.5 and resulted in 63 fatalities, 1995 measuring 5.8, resulting in two fatalities and 1996, measuring 6.5, with no fatalities. Due to the close proximity of the Cyprian Arc to Cyprus, evacuation procedures would be impossible.

Tsunamis occur in European waters due to earthquake activity and 10% of all Tsunamis worldwide are in the Mediterranean and on average the occurrence of a major Tsunami, is one every century. The areas bordering Greece and Southern Italy are the most badly affected, with thousands of lives lost over the centuries and with Tsunamis reaching heights in access of fifty metres.

An earthquake in the Mediterranean could cause a Tsunami to hit the Cyprus coast, as has happened in the past, however the risk to Cyprus is considered very low. There is a Buoy powered ocean observatory located off the south coast of Cyprus, which has been in place for five years, with state of the art equipment, providing Cyprus with an early warning system.

The observatory has undergone an extensive expansion and the prototype Tsunami Warning and Early Response System for Cyprus (TWERC), is now in operation. The CYCOFOS observatory incorporates two MCS OceanNETâ„¢ surface buoys to provide electrical power and satellite telemetry backhaul, for transmitting data to shore.

Earthquake Protection

As soon as you are aware that an earthquake may happen, turn off and unplug all appliances (or as many as you can) before it hits. This includes water, gas, and the stove. Keep away from windows, mirrors, hanging objects, fireplaces, and any heavy furniture or appliances. You will also want to take cover under a table or desk that is next to an inside wall. If there are no tables or desks, simply position yourself next to an interior wall (preferably near any structural strong points). Keep your head and neck covered and do not move until the quake is over.

If you find yourself in a vehicle during an earthquake, do not attempt to drive through or away from the earthquake. Stop the car and simply wait it out. Do not stop on a bridge, overpass, or underpass. Also, do not stop near any telephone poles or wires, signs, trees, large buildings, or anywhere that something could fall on top of your car.

For those of you who happen to be outside when an earthquake hits, look for a safe, open area away from buildings, trees, and anything that might fall on you. Once you find a wide open space, stay there. Do not move unless you feel a sinkhole forming, or are in direct danger from the quake itself.

Tsunami Protection

Rule number one of surviving a tsunami is to head inland and away from the coast. The second thing you will want to do as you head inland is to make for higher ground. Head up hill, up a mountain, or (as a last resort) up a very strong and sturdy tree. If you are trapped and cannot head inland or up a tree, find the most solid and structurally sound building you can and get to the highest floor you can, even if it means going on top of the roof. If you find yourself swept away by the tsunami, do not try to swim with it or against it. Your best bet is to find and grab onto something that floats, such as wood, a raft, or debris that may be in the water with you. Once you have made it to safer ground, do not head home or to the beach or anywhere near the tsunami until officials tell you it's safe to do so.

Information: Main Threats and Mandates


The primary responsibility for the co-ordination of relief activities rests on the Ministry of Interior - Civil Defence Force.

An integrated Building seismic Code is enforced on compulsory basis since 1992. Previously -since 1986- temporary seismic measures were used tentatively. A fully automated seismic network of 7 stations has been established and operates under the responsibility of the Geological Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. Under the same Department a special Technical Committee is to be established regarding the scientific aspect of earthquakes.

Forest Fires:

The primary responsibility rests on the Department of Forest of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment.

Effective preventive and control measures have been established such as detection system, prevention measures, (law enforcement, education, patrolling, forecast of hazard, use of water, road system, fire traces, communications etc), and a series of suppression measures.

Rural Fires:

The Cyprus Fire Service, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice and Public Order through the Police, is responsible to fight all rural fires, which are up to the distance of 1 km from forests boundaries. The Fire Service is also responsible to fight the urban fires as well as those to airports. After request, Fire Service respond to provide assistance and fire fighting to the Forest Department, the Refinery, the Ports Authority, chemical industries etc.

Marine Pollution:

The primary responsibility rests on the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. An existing Contingency Plan establishes the necessary infrastructure for an effective and timely response to any marine pollution accident.  A Regional Agreement has been signed between Cyprus, Egypt and Israel to combat major pollution accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Radiological emergencies:

An early warning system for radiation is operated in Cyprus by the General Hospital of Nicosia.  This system is consisted of a number of sensors transmitting data on line and is operated by Civil Defence Force on a 24 hour basis.


Emergency Number: 112

Operations Control Centre 22403450 (24 hour operation)

Civil Defence General Administration 22403413

Nicosia Regional Administration 22879464

Limassol Regional Administration 25811024

Larnaca Regional Administration 24828340

Paphos Regional Administration 26818470

Ammochostos Regional Administration 23815151