Civil protection volunteers purposes was established in Friuli Venezia Giulia in the aftermath of one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the region, namely the earthquake of 6 May 1976. Following that event, thousands of people volunteered to "give a hand", thereby setting in motion a solidarity mechanism on which the entire reconstruction effort was based.
That experience taught how important it is to rely on citizens that freely and voluntarily decide to help the community in emergency situations. Since voluntary work plays a crucial role on these occasions, the Region decided to leverage this resource to protect the integrity of its community. Instead of letting voluntary work in civil protection matters be the result of a momentary emotional response, an effort was made to organise volunteers into a structure that would be part of the integrated regional civil service System; that would include clearly identified stakeholders trained to collaborate not only during emergencies but also in "business as usual" situations.
The Regional Law on civil protection no. 64 of 31 December 1986 was the first regional law of this kind to be approved in Italy. It envisaged the setting up of a multi-stakeholder Regional Civil Protection System.
Here are the main innovations introduced by the law:
- setting up of a Regional Civil Protection service working on civil protection all year round and not only during emergencies in order to ensure effective and efficient operations within the regional system at any time;
- identification of Municipalities as the primary level of the Regional Civil Protection System;
- recognition that voluntary work is essential to the Regional Civil Protection System and needs to be both valued and safeguarded (e.g. providing insurance coverage) as well sufficiently qualified (by proper training and by providing volunteers with means and equipment) to be enabled to join in civil protection activities.
Today, there are about 10'000 civil protection volunteers in the region, of which about 8000 are members of 216 municipal groups and 2000 have joined civil protection volunteer associations.
Within the framework of the activities promoted by the municipal volunteer groups, the Regional Civil Protection service coordinates and promotes civil protection exercises, training and learning as well as prevention activities in the territory, pursuant to article 4 of RL 64/1986. These are opportunities to verify the functionality of detection, command and control systems and to check the operational efficiency of the human resources to be deployed during an emergency in order to fine-tune their coordination, logistic aspects and the communication system in the area of operations.
Another important aspect is specialised training for civil protection operators and information and learning campaigns for citizens, aimed at conveying those basic prevention principles that should become part of the knowledge and culture of a community.
Over the years, the Regional Civil Protection Service, the municipal groups and the volunteer associations were called to respond to regional, national and international emergencies.