Civil Protection Emergency Levels/Phases

Uncertainty Phase (Óvissustig):

Uncertainty phase/level is characterized by an event which has already started and could lead to a threat to people, properties, communities or the environment. At this stage the collaboration and coordination between the Civil Protection Authorities and stakeholders begins. Monitoring, assessment, research and evaluation of the situation is increased. The event is defined and a hazard assessment is conducted regularly.

Alert Phase (Hættustig):

If a hazard assessment indicates increased threat, immediate measures must be taken to ensure the safety and security of those who are exposed/ in the area. This is done by increasing preparedness of the emergency- and security services in the area and by taking preventive measures, such as restrictions, closures, evacuations and relocation of inhabitants. This level is also characterized by public information, advise and warning messages.

Emergency/Distress Phase (Neyðarstig):

Emergency phase is characterized by an event which has already begun and could lead, or already has led to, harm to people, communities, properties or the environment. At this stage, immediate measure are taken to ensure security, save lives and prevent casualties, damage and or loss.

Mobile phone alerts. In the case of disasters or emergencies the Civil Protection sends out alerts to mobile phones in the affected area using cell broadcasting via cell towers. The alert will be broadcast to areas affected by serious disasters. Most capable devices entering the area during the cell broadcast should receive the alert. If your phone is on, capable and inside the targeted location, you should get the alerts. You don’t have to download an app or subscribe to a service, just ensure your phone is capable and updated. You will not be able to respond to the message. In case of an emergency please call 112.

Emergency Response

There are three types of emergency plans in the Civil Protection.

  1. National plans – on matters that can affect the whole country – these include the National Pandemic Influenza Plan
  2. General plans for various types of hazards – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc. in a Civil Protection district
  3. Specific plans for specific events in a specific place (for example  earthquakes in the district of the Civil Protection in the Eyjafjörður region, volcanic eruptions in Mýrdalsjökull – Katla south Iceland,  plan for a plane emergency in Keflavik National Airport and also in other airports around the island

Local Chiefs of Police are in charge of all Civil Protection operations within their respective jurisdictions. There are 9 Police/Civil Protection Districts in Iceland and the country has 21 Civil Protection Committees.

Each Civil Protection District has one or more Civil Protection Committee which is responsible for organization of Civil Protection at the local level. The task of the Committees is to organise and carry out rescue and protection activities, preventive measures as well as of an acute nature, caused by war, natural catastrophes or other similar incidents.

In the event of an emergency, the Government is authorised to issue special instructions in relation to general traffic, rules and safety in official places and areas to which the public has access. In cases of imminent danger, the Chief of Police may forbid in part, or in full, the use of meeting halls and other public gathering places to which the public has access.

The National Crisis and Coordination Centre coordinates relief and rescue operation on a national level. Alerts are given through different channels depending on the situation, sometimes by messages on the radio/television, by news releases, on the internet or social media and/or SMS are sent to mobile phones in the area of the emergency/disaster.

During emergency situations the Government sets up the following services:

Temporary mortuaries
Centres for casualties
Centres for survivors
Centres for evacuees
Centres for relatives and friends
Centres for the provision of food
Service and Welfare Centres
The operation of some of these services is often delegated to volunteer organisations, i.e. the Icelandic Association for Search & Rescue and the Icelandic Red Cross, which can provide the qualified manpower.

Volunteer organisations such as the Icelandic Association for Search & Rescue and the Icelandic Red Cross have made an agreement with the Civil Protection and Emergency Management (NCIP) to provide integral support to the Government in any crisis. These volunteer organisations provide trained manpower as well as other resources such as vehicles, rescue equipment, relief materials and expert knowledge in the hour of need.

The Red Cross is in charge of psychological support to victims of disasters and others and delivers that aid with the support at national level from the Directorate of Health, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, the University Hospital and the Icelandic Association of Local Government. At the local level the local Red Cross, with the support of representative from the local health authorities, local municipality, and the police.