In the case of a natural disaster, it is important to minimise the extent of damage as good as possible by a rapid alert, professional and fast rescue and by taking care of the victims. Immediate measures such as setting up sandbag barriers or evacuating endangered people should further limit damage.
Depending on how big and severe a natural disaster is, it is possible that natural processes change their usual "behaviour". For example, when a river overtops its banks and thereby devastates settlement areas or traffic routes, people living in danger areas have to be warned and evacuated in time. A reliable warning system can safe lives.
In the case of natural hazards that arise in a locally limited area, the local authorities assume responsibility for the alerting of the population in the locality. Specially trained teams (e.g. local avalanche warning service) are responsible for early warning and alerting in known hazard areas. This teams obtain their information primarily from the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss) and the WSL Institut for Snow and Landscape Research SLF and from other federal information sources. The information from the various specialist authorities are collated by the Common information Platform for Natural Hazards (GIN) and made available to those responsible for safety in a clear form.
Actors involved in natural hazard events at national level
In the case of natural hazards with impacts on a national scale (i.e. several cantons are affected), the alert is issued by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). The FOEN acts as an information hub and makes the core natural hazards staff available to the other federal authorities in the case of major natural hazard events. This federal body links the federal offices (Federal Office for Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss), the WSL Institute for Snow and Landscape Research, the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) and the Federal Office for Civil Protection's National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) during a natural hazard event and enables the overall expert assessment of a hazard situation or hazard event. This is a central precondition for teh efficient management of an event by the operations and management bodies. The specialist natural hazard staff analyse and assess the hazard situation and, if required, transmits alerts to the authorities and the population.
The very first action to take in a case of a natural disaster is to rescue people and to safe the injured. Special care teams look after victims and their relatives - and after helpers.
Actors in charge
Population protection and its partner organisations are responsible for rescue and victim care: Fire brigade, Health service (including emergency medical service), Civil protection and parts of the Army too. Aqua Barrier
During or after a disaster it is absolutely vital to prevent a widening of the affected area. Therefore, the intervention forces take immediate measures as for example setting up sandbag barriers or provisionally throwing up protective dams.
It can happen that a protective measure such as a dam deliberately has to be blown up in order to relieve the strain on the main river. However, trying to limit the extent of a natural disaster is not restricted to control the natural processes. It also consists of evacuating people and saving material assets, for example by vacating cellars and underground car parks which are likely to be flooded. Objects and valuable things which might be damaged have to be evacuated. One example for this measure is the rescue of the objets d’art of Dresden’s Zwinger during the flooding of August 2002.
Actors in charge
Immediate measures in the public area are taken by the local task forces of Civil protection. Landowners are responsible for safeguarding their personal belongings.