Civil defense is an organization whose function is to provide support to the population in the framework of emergencies generated by natural catastrophes or other phenomena. These entities have the support of governments for their operation.
Those who make up the civil defense, also called civil protection, work to guarantee the safety and survival of the inhabitants and their heritage in the face of the consequences of some phenomenon. The birth of this type of organization occurred in 1949 through a protocol added to the Geneva Treaty to assist the victims of armed conflicts.
When referring to the organization in general, that is, without referring to any group in particular, the expression is written in lower case ( civil defense ). On the other hand, if the intention is to mention a specific organization, it should be written with an initial capital letter: Civil Defense of Egypt, Civil Defense of the Municipality of San Benito, etc.
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Civil defense members perform multiple tasks to safeguard people. They can create shelters, coordinate evacuation, install first aid and health services, define a dangerous area, carry out decontamination tasks, capture dangerous animals and organize vehicular traffic, for example.
Beyond acting during and after a catastrophe, the members of the civil defense also carry out important prevention functions. For this, they must carry out an analysis of possible risks and work with the population to minimize the possibilities of contingency. They also have to plan the necessary action in case of an emergency (determining how to declare the alert, evacuate people, etc.).
Stages of civil defense intervention
Broadly speaking, we can differentiate three stages in the actions of civil defense in the context of a disaster, with the aim of minimizing damage.
The first of these is the prevention stage, within which there is also a division, which begins with the information phase ; Throughout it, the organization carries out educational and information tasks so that people are aware of the phenomena and their consequences, as well as the possible paths towards prevention.
During the preparation phase, the civil defense implements certain prevention-oriented activities, such as disaster drills to train people in the best way to act against them; this includes identifying the nearest building exit and safe zones, for example.
The alert phase is the last one that makes up this stage, and it is carried out without rest, since it consists of constantly monitoring to inform citizens of any anomaly as soon as it is detected.
While the disaster itself is taking place, the second of the great stages takes place, the emergency stage, during which all resources are placed at the service of society. Here we can also speak of the survival phase to refer to the implementation of everything learned to deal with the problem, both to save oneself and others.
Finally comes the reconstruction stage, where basic services are restored, such as the supply of electricity, drinking water and sewage collection services and telecommunications, among others, in addition to the reconstruction of the areas that have been destroyed by the disaster.
Throughout all these stages, it is very important to have the help of a large number of volunteers who work to spread information and raise awareness in society, both before the disaster, and during and after it.