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Italian system for the mobilisation of volunteers in civil protection

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Type of organisation: Italian Department of Civil Protection

Country: Italy

Level of government: Central government

Type of practice: Legal instrument or regulation

Type of hazard or threat:

Risk management theme: Crisis management & preparedness, Risk governance

In Italy, the participation of volunteer organizations in civil protection (CP) activities and emergency response is regulated and promoted by the Presidential Declaration 194/2001. The Declaration stipulates that volunteer associations can be formed by any freely constituted body, including municipal CP groups, and that they need to be: nonnon-profit, democratically structured and set up for solidarity purposes. Associations have to be recognized in regional and national registers/lists in order to guarantee benefits and protection to their members. The state contributes to the optimization of equipment and to the improvement of the technical preparation and training of volunteers in order to ensure their safety and security. Moreover, volunteers involved in CP activities have guaranteed: preservation of their previous public or private employment, preservation of their financial retribution pension and benefit of insurance coverage. Refunds are also guaranteed for expenses related to rescues or trainings. The volunteer force is employed in forecasting, prevention and relief, and is growing with about one million persons throughout Italy.

Why the good practice was developed

With reccurent large-scale disasters and a strong sense of solidarity among the population, volunteerism has traditionally been largely developed in Italy. Dramatic events such as the 1966’s floods in Florence and Friuli and the Irpinia’s earthquakes in 1980 led to the first major spontaneous mobilization of volunteers. With the creation of a legal status, the development of dedicated trainings and better coordination of volunteers, such volunteer organisations have progressively developed their professionalism since the 80’s and 90’s. In order to fully benefit from the strength of volunteerism that has developed over the years, the need to associate volunteer organisations more closely within the network of emergency response required a shift in the conception of volunteer interventions in emergency situations.


  • Strengthen, rationalize and make better use of volunteerism in Italy’sItaly’s National system for civil protection

  • Guarantee a legal framework to ensure volunteers are properly insured and compensated for their spending

  • Develop the capacities, optimize the equipment and strengthen trainings and drills in order to better professionalise volunteer organisations



Service quality


User satisfaction

Results not available yet


  • Civil protection volunteers are now one of the most vital components of the system: a lively resource with more than 1.000.000 members across the country and more than 4.000 organizations registered in the list of the National Civil Protection Department

  • Volunteer organisation’s coverage of the national territory allows for a quick mobilisation : 100-150 thousands of volunteer can be mobilised within a two hour time-frame.

  • Volunteerism allows a more cost-efficient way to respond to major events as seen at the occasion of the Aquila earthquake, where 730 000 volunteer’s working days were accounted in the response phase, corresponding to € 100 mil is professionals had been engaged instead. 

Lessons Learned

  • Engaging volunteer’s organisations in emergency response guarantees a better reactiveness, and understanding of the local context, and hence can contribute to a better response when volunteers are properly equipped and trained.

  • A strong legal framework is essential to guarantee the protection of volunteersvolunteers in emergency response activities and hence support a larger engagement of volunteers.

  • Developing the professionalism of volunteer’sorganisations is a sound investment for cost-effective emergency response.