Civil Defence

The Civil Defence policy of the Government of India, till the declaration of Emergency in 1962, remained confined to making States and UTs conscious of the need for civil protection measures and asking them to keep ready civil protection plans for major cities and towns under the Emergency Relief Organisation [ERO] scheme. However, following the Chinese aggression in 1962 and the Indo Pak conflict of 1965, the policy and scope of Civil Defence underwent considerable rethinking, which culminated in the enactment of the Civil Defence (CD) Act 1968. After this the organisation has functioned under the parameters delineated in the Act.

Importance of Civil Defence

While global geo-political factors have reduced chances of traditional wars, new challenges have emerged for the community in the shape of natural calamities or human-induced disasters, resulting in large scale destruction of property, loss of human life and destabilization of normal life in society. Since the community is invariably the first responder to any disaster situation, adequate awareness and preparedness of the community to respond to any such situation can be crucial in mitigating damage and suffering. Civil Defence, being a community based voluntary organisation, can in addition to rescue, relief and rehabilitation, play a stellar role in the field of public awareness as well as community capacity building to face any disaster.

Civil Defence Revamp

NDMA was given the responsibility of preparing a National Policy Approach Paper related to revamping Civil Defence in the country . This document has been approved by Government of India and is now being implemented. Major recommendations of the policy paper are:

  • Amendment of Civil Defence Act-1960, to involve Civil Defence (CD) in Disaster Management
  • CD to be changed from town specific to district specific
  • Training infrastructure to be upgraded in all states
  • Involvement of Youth Organizations with Civil Defence
  • Involvement of Corporate/ Private Sectors for Civil Defence revamping
  • Recognition of Civil Defence Wardens
  • Renewal of Civil Defence services
  • Capacity Building at the grass root level
  • Empowerment of Director General Civil Defence
  • Training abroad
  • Distinctive identity of Civil Defence
  • Motivation of Civil Defence Volunteers

Progress on above recommendations:
  • Civil Defence Act 1968 has been amended involving Civil Defence in Disaster Management accordingly, extract is reproduced below:
  • Civil Defence” includes any measures, not amounting to actual combat, for affording protection to any person, property, place or thing in India or any part of the territory there of against any hostile attack, whether from air, land, sea or other places, or for depriving any such attack of the whole or part of its effect, whether such measures are taken before, during, at or after the time of such attack, or any measure taken for the purpose of disaster management, before, during, at, or after any disaster.

    As per DM Act 2005, it is mandatory for NDMA to ensure Civil Defence Preparedness for disaster Management. In the light of Section 10(p) of DM Act 2005, i.e. to promote general education & awareness related to disaster management, suggested roles of Civil Defence in various phases of disaster are enumerated below for information and necessary action.


    a) Educating the Community
    • Taking a lead role in spreading public awareness about the various kinds of disasters and possible community responses to them.
    • Educating/training the people at grass-roots level in vulnerable areas as a part of community capacity building to respond to any disaster situation.
    • Liaising with print and electronic media for regular publicity of civil Defence activities, including utilization of local TV channels to conduct discussion, debated, etc., on civil defence.
    • Holding regular mock drills, exercises and rehearsal of civil defence activities, to generate public interest.
    • Preparing publicity material, literature and brochures about Civil Defence and distributing these in events related to Civil Defence.
    • Organizing public functions to honour persons who have contributed to the Civil Defence cause by participating in its activities.

    b) Civil Defence Awareness in Schools
    • Taking guest lecturers in schools, holding demonstrations, showing films, visits to Civil Defence establishments, etc.
    • Holding camps for students to provide them basic training in skills for Civil Defence/Disaster Management.

    c) Sensitizing Government Servants
    • Holding seminars and workshops in government departments to sensitize government servants at various levels about Civil Defence functions and their role in a disaster scenario.
    • Identifying suitable personnel in local government offices, in consultation with the Head of Office, and sponsoring them for various courses in Civil Defence.
    • Maintaining a record of ‘trained government servants’ and keeping in regular communication with them to ensure their constant association with Civil Defence activities.
    • Developing resource personnel particularly in those government departments which would not be directly involved in any Disaster Management effort, since officials of police, health, supplies, revenue, etc., may not be available to Civil Defence in the event of a disaster.

    d) During Disasters

    The Civil Defence organization should enhance its capacity to act as first responder to any disaster situation with the help of its volunteers at different levels. It should have its own ‘Quick Reaction Teams’(QRT) of volunteers with pre-designated roles and responsibilities, based on vulnerability and quick mobility to respond to any disaster situation. The QRT should also have its communication network to keep in touch with the Civil Defence control room on real-time basis for reporting about its actions and getting instructions from the control room.

    After initially responding to the disaster with its own and locally available resources of police, etc., the Civil Defence may integrate itself with the Disaster Management efforts launched under the aegis of the state/DDMA. It may deploy its personnel, volunteers and other material resources such as communication equipment, Disaster Management vehicles, etc., in consultation and coordination with other agencies. In particular, the Civil Defence organization can supplement the government efforts during and after a disaster, in the following areas:

    • Assisting in taking precautionary measures whenever any advance warning is received about any
    • Natural disaster.
    • Helping in evacuation of population to less vulnerable areas depending on the nature of disaster.
    • Launching search and rescue operations.
    • Providing first aid to injure and transporting them to medical centres.
    • Setting up ‘Information and Guidance Centers’ for providing information regarding missing persons,injured, etc., and also information about the nature of facilities and assistance available to affected people Participating in distribution of relief material to affected people.
    • Assisting police/traffic police in ensuring smooth movement of emergency vehicles in the affected areas.
    • Training Infrastructure in States have been upgraded
    • Helping the local administration in assessing the extent of loss to life and property.

    Petra Nemcova Says

    "We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn't have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness."

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