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Civil protection organisation (CPO)

Spectrum of tasks

The Civil protection organisation (CPO) must fulfil the following tasks:

  • Providing the protective infrastructure (shelters, etc.) and the resources needed to alert the population
  • Caring for persons in need of protection and those made homeless
  • Protecting the country's cultural property
  • Backing up the other partner organisations, particularly in the event of disasters and emergencies
  • Reinforcing management support and logistics
  • Repair
  • Other operations for the benefit of the community

Protective measures according to circumstances

Operational command or the staff unit may call for protective measures depending on the situation and the time available. In the case of disasters, emergencies and armed conflict, the authorities may order the population to go to the shelters and stay there as long as necessary. Such an order is followed by corresponding instructions to the population.

Caring for persons in need of help

CPO is also in charge of sheltering and caring for persons in need of protection and those made homeless. Public and private buildings and premises, shelters and protected premises and/or parts of the army infrastructure are available to this end.

Protection of cultural property according to the Hague convention

The Confederation establishes the legislative framework for the protection of national and regional cultural property. In the case of armed conflict, it orders protective measures pursuant to the Hague Convention. The cantons implement the necessary measures according to Federal provisions in cooperation with cultural institutions and the private sector.

Backing other civil protection partner organisations

Where necessary, CPO back the other partner organisations, and may be deployed for long term operations (days up to months), alone or jointly with other partner organisations.

Backing management support and logistics

CPO personnel may be called upon to reinforce management support. When necessary, CPO provide logistics services for the other partner organisations, and are in charge of logistics coordination for management support.


To avert consequential damage, particularly for natural events such as floods, storms or avalanches, repair must be executed promptly, including protective and clearing measures. These works may take days or weeks up to months.

Work for the benefit of the community

The authorities may decide to deploy CPO for the benefit of the community (big events, for example).

CPO is jointly regulated by Federal and cantonal provisions

The Confederation establishes the legal framework for protection and support service and sets up provisions relative to its areas of competence, particularly as concerns recruitment and personnel. Cantons are in charge of implementing the Federal provisions and of CPO organisation.

Organisation of CPO

The organisation of CPO is defined by hazards analyses, the topographical conditions and structures of a canton, municipality or region. Consequently it may vary from case to case.

Swiss term idiosyncrasy

In Switzerland, the Civil protection organisation (CPO) is called „Zivilschutz“ (German) / „protection civile“ (French) which literally means „civil protection”. In contrast to the other partner organisations (police, fire service, health care services, technical services) CPO is focussed on disasters, emergencies and armed conflict. If several partner organisations are deployed over a longer period, and if staff unit is put in charge of command, coordination and management, the swiss civil concept uses the term „Bevölkerungsschutz“ (German) / „protection de la population“ (French): protection of the population (instead of civil protection).

Federal Office for Civil Protection FOCP Guisanplatz 1B
CH-3003 Bern


Federal Office for Civil Protection FOCP

Guisanplatz 1B
CH-3003 Bern