World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Civil Defense

Article Id: WHEBN0000007059
Reproduction Date:

Title: Civil Defense  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Nuclear warfare, CD V-700, Air raids on Japan, Nuclear fallout, Nuclear weapon
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Civil Defense

The international distinctive sign of civil defense, defined by the rules of International Humanitarian Law and to be used as a protective sign

Civil defense, civil defence (see spelling differences) or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state (generally non-combatants) from military attack. It uses the principles of emergency operations: prevention, mitigation, preparation, response, or emergency evacuation and recovery. Programs of this sort were initially discussed at least as early as the 1920s and were implemented in some countries during the 1930s as the threat of war and aerial bombardment grew. It became widespread after the threat of nuclear weapons was realized.

Since the end of the Cold War, the focus of civil defense has largely shifted from military attack to emergencies and disasters in general. The new concept is described by a number of terms, each of which has its own specific shade of meaning, such as crisis management, emergency management, emergency preparedness, contingency planning, emergency services, and civil protection.

In some countries, civil defense is seen as a key part of "total defense". For example in armed forces or as a paramilitary service.



British First World War poster, bringing attention to the threat posed by aerial bombardment from German Zeppelins.

The advent of civil defence was stimulated by the experience of the bombing of civilian areas during the First World War.The bombing of Britain began on 19 January 1915 when zeppelins dropped bombs on the Great Yarmouth area, killing six people. German bombing operations of the First World War were surprisingly effective, especially after the Gotha bombers surpassed the zeppelins. The most devastating raids inflicted 121 casualties for each ton of bombs dropped and it was this figure that was used as a basis for predictions.

After the war, attention was turned toward civil defence in the event of war, and the Air Raid Precautions Committee was established in 1924 to investigate ways for ensuring the protection of civilians from the danger of air-raids.

The Committee produced figures estimating that in London there would be 9,000 casualties in the first two days and then a continuing rate of 17,500 casualties a week. These rates were thought conservative. It was believed that there would be "total chaos and panic" and hysterical neurosis as the people of London would try to flee the city. To control the population harsh measures were proposed—bringing London under almost military control; physically cordoning London with 120,000 troops to force people back to work. A different government department proposed setting up camps for refugees for a few days before sending them back to London.

A special government department, the Civil Defence Service was established by the Home Office in 1935. Its remit included the pre-existing ARP as well as wardens, firemen (initially the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) and latterly the National Fire Service (NFS)), fire watchers, rescue, first aid post, stretcher party and industry. Over 1.9 million people served within the CD and nearly 2,400 lost their lives to enemy action.

Air Raid Warden testing his equipment in Brisbane in October 1942.

The organisation of civil defence was the responsibility of the local authority. Volunteers were ascribed to different units depending on experience or training. Each local civil defence service were divided into several sections. Wardens were responsible for local reconnaissance and reporting, and leadership, organisation, guidance and control of the general public. Wardens would also advise survivors of the locations of rest and food centres, and other welfare facilities.

Rescue Parties were required to assess and then access bombed out buildings and retrieve injured or dead people. In addition they would turn off gas, electricity and water supplies, and repair or pull down unsteady buildings. Medical services, including First Aid Parties, provided on the spot medical assistance.

The expected stream of information that would be generated during an attack was handled by 'Report and Control' teams. A local headquarters would have an ARP controller that would direct rescue, first aid and decontamination teams to the scenes of reported bombing. If local services were deemed insufficient to deal with the incident then the controller could request assistance from surrounding boroughs.

Fire Guards were responsible for a designated area/building and required to monitor the fall of incendiary bombs and pass on news of any fires that had broken out to the NFS. They could deal with an individual magnesium electron incendiary bomb by dousing them in buckets of sand, water or by smothering. Additionally, 'Gas Decontamination Teams' were kitted out with gas-tight and waterproof protective clothing and were to deal with any gas attacks. They were trained to decontaminate buildings, roads, rail and other material that had been contaminated by liquid or jelly gases.

Anderson shelters were widely distributed in Britain by civil defence authorities, in preparation for aerial bombardment.

Little progress was made over the issue of air-raid shelters, because of the apparently irreconcilable conflict between the need to send the public underground for shelter and the need to keep them above ground for protection against gas attacks. In February 1936 the Home Secretary appointed a technical Committee on Structural Precautions against Air Attack. During the Munich crisis, local authorities dug trenches to provide shelter. After the crisis, the British Government decided to make these a permanent feature, with a standard design of precast concrete trench lining. They also decided to issue free to poorer households the Anderson shelter and to provide steel props to create shelters in suitable basements.[1]

During the Second World War, the ARP was responsible for the issuing of gas masks, pre-fabricated air-raid shelters (such as Anderson shelters, as well as Morrison shelters), the upkeep of local public shelters, and the maintenance of the blackout. The ARP also helped rescue people after air raids and other attacks, and some women became ARP Ambulance Attendants whose job was to help administer first aid to casualties, search for survivors, and in many grim instances, help recover bodies, sometimes those of their own colleagues.

As the war progressed, the effectiveness of aerial bombardment was, beyond the destruction of property, very limited. There were less than three casualties for each ton of bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe in many British cities and the expected social consequences hardly happened. The morale of the British people remained high, 'shell-shock' was not at all common, and the rates of other nervous and mental ailments declined.

In the United States, the Office of Civil Defense was established in May 1941 to coordinate civilian defense efforts. It coordinated with the Department of the Army and established similar groups to the British ARP. One of these groups that still exists today is the Civil Air Patrol, which was originally created as a civilian auxiliary to the Army. The CAP was created on December 1, 1941, with the main civil defense mission of search and rescue. The CAP also sunk 2 Axis submarines and provided aerial reconnaissance for Allied and neutral merchant ships.[2] In 1946, the Civil Air Patrol was barred from combat by Public Law 79-476. The CAP then received its current mission: search and rescue for downed aircraft. When the Air Force was created, in 1947, the Civil Air Patrol became the auxiliary of the Air Force.[3]

Atomic Age

Civil Defense literature such as Fallout Protection were common during the Cold War era.

In most of the NATO states, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and West Germany as well as the Soviet Bloc, and especially in the neutral countries, such as Switzerland and in Sweden during the 1950s and 1960s, many civil defense practices took place to prepare for the aftermath of a nuclear war, which seemed quite likely at that time.[4]

In the UK, the nuclear attack. Although under the authority of the Home Office, with a centralised administrative establishment, the corps was administered locally by Corps Authorities. In general every county was a Corps Authority, as were most county boroughs in England and Wales and large burghs in Scotland.

Each division was divided into several sections, including the Headquarters, Intelligence and Operations, Scientific and Reconnaissance, Warden & Rescue, Ambulance and First Aid and Welfare.

In the United States, the sheer power of [5]

Civil Defense literature such as Survival Under Atomic Attack was common during the Cold War Era.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the Cold War civil defense effort was the educational effort made or promoted by the government. In Duck and Cover, Bert the Turtle advocated that children "duck and cover" when they "see the flash." Booklets were also common place such as Survival Under Atomic Attack, Fallout Protection and Nuclear War Survival Skills. The transcribed radio program Stars for Defense combined hit music with civil defense advice. Public service announcements including children's songs were created by government institutes and then distributed and released by radio stations to educate the public in case of nuclear attack.

President Kennedy launched an ambitious effort to install fallout shelters throughout the United States. These shelters would not protect against the blast and heat effects of nuclear weapons, but would provide some protection against the radiation effects that would last for weeks and even affect areas distant from a nuclear explosion. In order for most of these preparations to be effective, there had to be some degree of warning. In 1951, Control of Electromagnetic Radiation was established. Under the system, a few primary stations would be alerted of an emergency and would broadcast an alert. All broadcast stations throughout the country would be constantly listening to an upstream station and repeat the message, thus passing it from station to station.

Contrary to the approach taken in the West, military strategy in the USSR held that winning a nuclear war was possible.[6][7][8] To this effect the Soviets planned to minimize, as far as possible, the effects of nuclear weapon strikes on its territory and therefore spent considerably more thought on civil defense preparations than in the U.S., with defense plans that have been assessed to be far more effective than those in the U.S.[9][10][11]

Soviet Civil Defense Troops played the main role in the massive disaster relief operation following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. Defense Troops reservists were officially mobilized (as in a case of war) from throughout the USSR to join the Chernobyl task force formed on basis of the Kiev Civil Defense Brigade. The task force performed some high-risk tasks, including manual removal of lethally-radioactive debris.


In Western countries, strong civil defense policies were never properly implemented, because it was fundamentally at odds, with the doctrine of "mutual assured destruction" (MAD) by making provisions for survivors. It was also considered that a fully fledged total defense would have not been worth the very large expense. For whatever reason, the public saw efforts at civil defense as fundamentally ineffective against the powerful destructive forces of nuclear weapons, and therefore a waste of time and money. Detailed scientific research programmes did lay behind the much-mocked government civil defence pamphlets of the 1950s and 1960s.[12]

Governments in most Western countries, with the sole exception of Switzerland, generally sought to underfund Civil Defense due to its perceived pointlessness. Nevertheless effective, but commonly dismissed civil defense measures against nuclear attack were implemented, in the face of popular apathy and scepticism of authority. After the end of the Cold War, the focus moved from defense against nuclear war to defense against a terrorist attack possibly involving chemical or biological weapons.

The Civil Defence Corps was stood down in Great Britain in 1968 with the tacit realization that nothing practical could be done in the event of an unrestricted nuclear attack. However, two Civil Defence Corps still operate within the British Isles, namely the Isle of Man Civil Defence Corps and Civil Defence Ireland (Republic of Ireland).

In the United States, the various civil defense agencies were replaced with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1979. In 2002 this became part of the Department of Homeland Security. The focus was shifted from nuclear war to an "all-hazards" approach of Comprehensive Emergency Management. Natural disasters and the emergence of new threats such as terrorism have caused attention to be focused away from traditional civil defense and into new forms of civil protection such as emergency management and homeland security.


Many countries still maintain a national Civil Defence Corps, usually having a wide brief for assisting in large scale civil emergencies such as flood, earthquake, invasion, or civil disorder.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, in the United States the concept of civil defense has been revisited under the umbrella term of homeland security and all-hazards emergency management.

In Emergency management).[13] The name and logo, however, continue to be used by Hawaii State Civil Defense[14] and Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense.[15]

The term "civil protection" is currently widely used within the European Union to refer to government-approved systems and resources tasked with protecting the non-combat population, primarily in the event of natural and technological disasters. In recent years there has been emphasis on preparedness for technological disasters resulting from terrorist attack. Within EU countries the term "crisis-management" emphasises the political and security dimension rather than measures to satisfy the immediate needs of the population.

In Australia, civil defence is the responsibility of the volunteer-based State Emergency Service.

In Russia, and most former Soviet countries, civil defence is the responsibility of Governmental Ministry, Like the Ministry of Emergency Situations in Russia.


Relatively small investments in preparation can speed up recovery by months or years and thereby prevent millions of deaths by hunger, cold and disease. According to human capital theory in economics, a country's population is more valuable than all of the land, factories and other assets that it possesses. People rebuild a country after its destruction, and it is therefore important for the economic security of a country that it protect its people. According to psychology, it is important for people to feel like they are in control of their own destiny, and preparing for uncertainty via civil defense may help to achieve this.

In the United States, the federal civil defense program was authorised by statute and ran from 1951 to 1994. Originally authorised by Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress it was repealed by Public Law 93-337 in 1994. Small portions of that statutory scheme were incorporated into the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707) which superseded in part, amended in part, and supplemented in part the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-288). In the portions of the civil defense statute incorporated into the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act the primary modification was to use the term "Emergency Preparedness" wherever the term "Civil Defence" previously appeared in the statutory language.

An important concept initiated by President Jimmy Carter was the so-called "Crisis Relocation Program" administered as part of the federal civil defense program. That effort largely lapsed under President Ronald Reagan who discontinued the Carter initiative because of opposition from areas potentially hosting the relocated population. SEE Presidential Review Memorandum/NSC-32 [1] (September 30, 1977) and Presidential Decision Memorandum 42 [2].

Threat assessment

Threats to civilians and civilian life include NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare) and others, like the more modern term CBRN, Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear. threat assessment involves studying each threat so that preventative measures can be built into civilian life.


This would be conventional explosives. A blast shelter designed to protect only from radiation and fall-out, however, would be much more vulnerable to conventional explosives,also see fallout shelter.


Shelter intended to protect against nuclear blast effects would include thick concrete and other sturdy elements which are resistant to conventional explosives. The biggest threats from a nuclear attack are effects from the blast, fires and radiation. One of the most prepared countries for a nuclear attack is Switzerland. Almost every building in Switzerland has an abri (shelter) against the initial nuclear bomb and explosion followed by the fall-out.[16][17] Because of this, many people use it as a safe to protect valuables, photos, financial information and so on. Switzerland also has air-raid and nuclear-raid sirens in every village.

Dirty Bomb

A "radiologically enhanced weapon," or "dirty bomb" uses an explosive to spread radioactive material. This is a theoretical risk, and such weapons have not been used by terrorists. Depending on the quantity of the radioactive material, the dangers may be mainly psychological. Toxic effects can be managed by standard hazmat techniques.


The threat here is primarily from disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.


Various chemical agents are a threat such as nerve gas (VX, Sarin, and so on.).



Civil defense logo on an Air raid siren control box in Kansas, US.
Civil Defense logo on a Thunderbolt 1003 siren.

Mitigation is the process of actively preventing the war or the release of nuclear weapons. It includes policy analysis, diplomacy, political measures, nuclear disarmament and more military responses such as a National Missile Defense and air defense artillery. In the case of counter-terrorism, mitigation would include diplomacy, intelligence gathering and direct action against terrorist groups. Mitigation may also be reflected in long-term planning such as the design of the interstate highway system and the placement of military bases further away from populated areas.


Preparation consists of building blast shelters, and pre-positioning information, supplies and emergency infrastructure. For example, most larger cities in the U.S. now have underground emergency operations centres that can perform civil defense coordination. FEMA also has many underground facilities located near major railheads such as the one in Denton, Texas and Mount Weather, Virginia for the same purpose.

Other measures would include continuous government inventories of grain silos, the Strategic National Stockpile, the uncapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the dispersal of lorry-transportable bridges, water purification, mobile refineries, mobile de-contamination facilities, mobile general and special purpose disaster mortuary facilities such as Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) and DMORT-WMD, and other aids such as temporary housing to speed civil recovery.

On an individual scale, one means of preparation for exposure to nuclear fallout is to obtain potassium iodide (KI) tablets as a safety measure to protect the human thyroid gland from the uptake of dangerous radioactive iodine. Another measure is to cover the nose, mouth and eyes with a piece of cloth and sunglasses to protect against alpha particles, which are only an internal hazard.

To support and supplement efforts at national, regional and local level with regard to disaster prevention, the preparedness of those responsible for civil protection and the intervention in the event of disaster

  • To establish a framework for effective and rapid cooperation between different civil protection services when mutual assistance is needed (police, fire service, healthcare service, public utility provider, voluntary agencies).
  • To set up and implement training programs for intervention and coordination teams as well as assessment experts including joint courses and exchange systems.
  • To enhance the coherence of actions undertaken at international level in the field of civil protection especially in the context of cooperation.

Preparing also includes sharing information:

  • To contribute to the information of the public in view of increasing the level of self-protection of citizens
  • To collect and disseminate validated emergency information
  • To pool information on national civil protection capabilities, military and medical resources.
  • To ensure efficient information sharing between the different authorities.


Response consists first of warning civilians so they can enter Fallout Shelters and protect assets.

Staffing a response is always full of problems in a civil defense emergency. After an attack, conventional full-time emergency services are dramatically overloaded, with conventional fire fighting response times often exceeding several days. Some capability is maintained by local and state agencies, and an emergency reserve is provided by specialised military units, especially civil affairs, Military Police, Judge Advocates and combat engineers.

However, the traditional response to massed attack on civilian population centres is to maintain a mass-trained force of volunteer emergency workers. Studies in World War II showed that lightly trained (40 hours or less) civilians in organised teams can perform up to 95% of emergency activities when trained, liaised and supported by local government. In this plan, the populace rescues itself from most situations, and provides information to a central office to prioritize professional emergency services.

In the 1990s, this concept was revived by the community emergency response teams, under the Department of Homeland Security, which certifies training programmes by local governments, and registers "certified disaster service workers" who complete such training.


Recovery consists of rebuilding damaged infrastructure, buildings and production. The recovery phase is the longest and ultimately most expensive phase. Once the immediate "crisis" has passed, cooperation fades away and recovery efforts are often politicised or seen as economic opportunities.

Preparation for recovery can be very helpful. If mitigating resources are dispersed before the attack, cascades of social failures can be prevented. One hedge against bridge damage in riverine cities is to subsidise a "tourist ferry" that performs scenic cruises on the river. When a bridge is down, the ferry takes up the load.


Some advocates believe that government should change building codes to require autonomous buildings in order to reduce civil societies' dependence on complex, fragile networks of social services.

An example of a crucial need after a general nuclear attack would be the fuel required to transport every other item for recovery. However, oil refineries are large, immobile, and probable targets. One proposal is to preposition truck-mounted fuel refineries near oil fields and bulk storage depots. Other critical infrastructure needs would include road and bridge repair, communications, electric power, food production, and potable water.

Civil defense organizations

The old United States civil defense logo. The triangle emphasized the 3-step Civil Defense philosophy used before the foundation of FEMA and Comprehensive Emergency Management.

Civil Defense is also the name of a number of organizations around the world dedicated to protecting civilians from military attacks, as well as to providing rescue services after natural and human-made disasters alike.

Worldwide is managed by the UN United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In a few countries such as ambulance service.

As the threat of Cold War eased, a number of such civil defense organisations have been disbanded or mothballed (as in the case of the Royal Observer Corps in the United Kingdom and the United States civil defense), while others have changed their focuses into providing rescue services after natural disasters (as for the State Emergency Service in Australia). However the ideals of Civil Defense have been brought back in the United States under FEMA's Citizen Corps and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

In the firemen and medical responders based in key areas around the country.

By country



See also


Notes and references

  1. ^  
  2. ^
  3. ^ Texas Wing Civil Air Patrol 2014 Summer Encampment Standard Operating Instructions (SOI)
  4. ^ McReynolds, David (2008). "Ralph DiGia, 1914-2008". The  
  5. ^ National Security Resources Board. United States Civil Defense. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), 1950. LCCN 51060552.
  6. ^ Richard Pipes (1977). "Why the Soviet Union Thinks It Could Fight and Win a Nuclear War". Commentary  
  7. ^ Richard Pipes (1977). "Why the Soviet Union thinks it can fight and win a Nuclear War". Commentary. Retrieved April 21, 2013. 
  8. ^ Burr, William; Savranskaya, Svetlana, eds. (September 11, 2009). "Previously Classified Interviews with Former Soviet Officials Reveal U.S. Strategic Intelligence Failure Over Decades".  
  9. ^ Captain John W. Dorough, Jr. "Soviet Civil Defense U.S.S.R. preparations for industrial-base war survival.". Air University Review, March–April 1977. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  10. ^ Leon Gouré Reviewed by John C. Campbell (1977). "War Survival in Soviet Strategy: USSR Civil Defense".  
  11. ^ Richard Pipes (1977). "Why the Soviet Union Thinks It Could Fight and Win a Nuclear War". Commentary 
  12. ^ Architects of Armageddon: the Home Office Scientific Advisers' Branch and civil defence in Britain, 1945–68
  13. ^ Dunlap, David W. (December 1, 2006). "Civil Defense Logo Dies at 67, and Some Mourn Its Passing". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ [4]
  16. ^ Ball, Deborah (2011-06-25). "Swiss Renew Push for Bomb Shelters". The Wall Street Journal. 
  17. ^ Foulkes, Imogen (2007-02-10). "Swiss still braced for nuclear war". BBC News. 
  18. ^
  19. ^!/x1Fr?OpenDocument&1Fr
  20. ^
  21. ^

External links

  • [5] Hellas
  • Large gallery of Bulgaria's Civil Defense Mechanization
  • The UK Civil Defence Project - History & Photos
  • National Civil Defence College, Nagpur INDIA link by Ajoy VU2JHM
  • Special Event Amateur Ham Radio Station operated from Bangalore, INDIA
  • Protezione Civile Italian Civil Defense
  • Dublin Civil Defence Ireland
  • SEBEV Search and Rescue (originally a Civil Defence team in the UK
  • Civil Protection (Ministry of Interior, Spain).
  • Civil Protection Villena - Spain
  • Civil Defense Logo dies at 67, and Some Mourn its Passing, The New York Times, 1 December 2006 by David Dunlap.
  • Cold War Era Civil Defense Museum – Features much historical information about Civil Defense history, its equipment and methods, and many historical photographs and posters.
  • Annotated bibliography for civil defense from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
  • The American Civil Defense Association
  • Civil Defense Caves – Cold War community getaway in case of nuclear war located in Idaho
  • Comprehensive Emergency Management Reference Material Repository
  • - The official preparedness site of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • "Civil Defence" – A site with details of the UK's Civil Defence preparations, including those implemented during the Cold War such as the Burlington Central Government War HQ., at Corsham, Wiltshire.
  • Emergency Planning in Lincolnshire
  • The official Civil Defence site for the Republic of Ireland
  • The official Civil Defense site of São Paulo State - Brazil
  • Doctors for Disaster Preparedness
  • Physicians for Civil Defense
  • Dutch civil defense instructions in English
  • Emergency Management Portal - online resources for emergency planners and managers
  • The Norwegian Civil Defence
  • German Federal Agency for Technical Relief - THW Technisches Hilfswerk
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.