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Crisis management


Crisis management at federal level

In principle, management at federal level is the same in normal, special and exceptional situations. Crisis management at federal level must on the one hand take account of the departmental system of governance, while on the other being efficient within this system. However, reaction times in a crisis must be made shorter by adapting management behaviour and the management organisation. Based on the experiences from genuine crises and the lessons learned from the strategic leadership exercises in 2013 and 2017 as well as the Security Network Exercise in 2014, the Federal Council intends to place one of its members in overall charge of an actual crisis, most likely the member whose department is most seriously and directly affected by the crisis. The president’s department will also be considered for overall responsibility where it is directly affected by the incident or if the crisis affects all the departments.

The member of the Federal Council given overall responsibility can form an ad-hoc crisis team, which he or she can adapt to the requirements of the situation. In addition, the Federal Civil Protection Crisis Management Board (for crises that primarily involve civil protection matters, such as disasters and emergencies) and the police command staff (for crises that mainly require police intervention, such as acute terrorist threats) are available to support the Federal Council member in charge and the ad-hoc crisis team with infrastructure and know-how on operational management matters or even to form the core of the crisis team.


Crisis management at cantonal level

In the event of a crisis, the cantons also work for as long as possible within their ordinary structures. However, if several partner organisations are working together over a longer time on a major operation, the cantonal management body takes over the coordination of resources and liaison duties with superior government agencies. It coordinates or manages the deployment of the police, fire brigade, medical services, technical services, civil defence and third parties (e.g. the armed forces or civilian partners). The operational management of the emergency services remains the responsibility of the blue light organisations. The cantonal management body is normally made up of an executive committee, representatives of the administration and the heads of the police, fire brigade, medical services, technical services, civil defence and the cantonal armed forces’ territorial liaison staffs. If required, additional specialists are called in.

In relation to policing, the cantons work together in terms of inter-cantonal agreements (concordats). If a police force has insufficient resources to deal with an incident, it first requests assistance from the parties to its own police concordat. If this is not enough, the IKAPOL Agreement comes into play - it regulates arrangements for mutual support and the financial payments for inter-cantonal police operations. Since the start of 2015, the police command staff has been responsible for the management and coordination of police cooperation in the event of supra-regional or national incidents (e.g. a terrorist attack). This is currently the non-permanent staff from the Conference of Cantonal Police Commanders, which, when required, can be brought into action within hours.

In relation to disaster relief and aid in emergencies, generally speaking neighbours help each other; in some cases there are also regional agreements. The management of events causing serious damage has shown that the command staff and emergency services in the cantons, in particular the fire brigade and civil defence units can support each other quickly and effectively over longer periods of time, with the minimum of red tape.