Integrated system - modular structure
Civil protection is an integrated management, protection, rescue and relief system. The partner organisations are in charge of their specific tasks, and provide mutual support. Joint management ensures coordinated planning and preparation, and operational command in case of deployment. The resources of the partner organisations have a modular structure, with everyday incidents forming its basis. According to the type and severity of an incident, resources are coordinated and reinforced. The primary intervention resources (police, fire service, first aid service) deal with everyday incidents on-site according to established procedures. In the case of disasters and emergencies the partner organisations provide additional resources.
The operational command of the partner deployed (generally the fire service or the police) is in charge of everyday incidents. For large-scale incidents, a special staff unit with ad-hoc specialists from the partner organisations and from the administration assumes command. If several partner organisations are deployed over a longer period, this staff unit in which the partners are represented is put in charge of command, coordination and management, directed by a chief of staff who reports directly to the relevant authority.
Increase of readiness and "build up" principle
With rising hazard level (for example increased radioactivity or the threat of armed conflict), the Confederation, cantons and municipalities, each at their own level of competence, must increase the readiness of alert systems for the population, of the managing bodies, partner organisations and protective structures, in timely and adequate manner. If there appears to be a rising threat of armed conflict, the government (Federal Council) and Parliament may decide to 'build-up' civil protection resources, within the assumed advanced warning period of several years. This would primarily require measures relative to personnel (for example raising the age to which persons do compulsory service), training and material resources.
Subsidiary back-up by army resources
According to the subsidiarity principle, the authorities in charge may re-quest military back-up. In principle, civil authorities may request military aid only if and when joint cantonal and regional civil protection resources are exhausted, or non-existent (except for spontaneous assistance). The army may provide subsidiary protection services (security, for example), military disaster relief and general back-up services, such as road or airborne transport, or engineering tasks.