Civil Defence Tasks
Pursuant to Art. 137 of the Act of 21 November 1967 on universal obligation to defend the Republic of Poland (uniform text, Journal of Laws of 2004, No. 241, Item 2416, as amended), the civil defence is aimed at:
- protecting people, companies, publicly used facilities and culture heritage;
- saving and providing assistance to people suffering from war;
- cooperating in order to combat natural disasters, environmental threats and to remove their negative consequences.
Within the civil defence, the abovementioned Act also specifies the following issues (Chapter IV of the Act):
- administrative authorities competent for civil defence matters;
- composition and mode of establishing civil defence formations;
- obligations of citizens in the area of civil defence (civil defence service, trainings in universal civil protection of society);
- civil defence training for pupils and students.
Main organisational units intended to perform duties in the scope of civil defence are civil defence formations. The formations are established based on a Minister regulation - and may also be created by the starostes, mayors, commune heads and city presidents in the way of a disposition, taking particularly into consideration: the scale of existing threats, type of formations, their objective and personal composition as well as internal organisation. Civil defence formations may also be established by the employers.
A precise specification of civil defence tasks is included in the First Additional Protocol to Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 concerning protection of victims of international military conflicts, signed in Geneva on 8 June 1977 (Journal of Laws of 1992, No. 41, Item 175) and adopted by the Republic of Poland on 19 September 1991.
For the purposes of this Protocol, the term ''civil defence" means the performance of some or all of the above mentioned humanitarian tasks intended to protect the civilian population against the threats and to help it to recover from the immediate effects, of hostilities or disasters and also to provide the conditions necessary for its survival. These tasks are:
- organisation and management of shelters;
- management of blackout measures;
- medical services, including first aid, and religious assistance;
- detection and marking of dangerous areas;
- decontamination and similar protective measures;
- provision of emergency accommodation and supplies;
- emergency assistance in the restoration and maintenance of order in distressed areas;
- emergency repair of indispensable public utilities;
- emergency disposal of the dead;
- assistance in the preservation of objects essential for survival;
- complementary activities necessary to carry out any of the tasks mentioned above, including, but not limited to, planning and organization.
National legal regulations relating to civil defence, i.e. Act on universal obligation to defend the Republic of Poland and executive acts to this Act are inconsistent and do not refer to all task areas of civil defence specified in the Protocol. Regulations do not determine precisely tasks relating to protection of civilians to be carried out in the time of peace and specify exclusively the tasks comprising planning, organisation, training and other activities spreading knowledge of civil defence.
In recent years many legal acts relating to civil defence expired, and no other regulations have been introduced to replace them. This concerns in particular cancellation of Art. 140 of the Act on universal obligation to defend the Republic of Poland, which was a statutory basis for issuing regulations by the Government in respect of specification of duties and rights of institutions in the field of civil defence, matters of civil defence formations and signals of common warning and alarming. Lack of legal regulations in the above cases limits the possibilities of performing civil defence tasks.
Thus, work started on the draft of the act on protection of society and civil defence, which shall put in order competences and tasks of all public administration authorities, public institutions, social organisations and other units obliged to carry out tasks in the area of civilian protection. The act shall also regulate the operating mode of the above mentioned units, both in the time of peace and war, pursuant to the above mentioned Additional Protocol. At the same time, executive acts to the act shall be prepared. Together with the act, they shall specify the legal framework of civil defence corresponding to present needs and dangers. The act shall complete the solutions adopted in the act on crisis management, which shall result in creating a complex legal framework in the area of civilian protection and crisis management.