Protecting Cultural Heritage: International Civil Protection exercise in Italy

Earthquakes caused widespread destruction, high risk of further damage to invaluable cultural heritage sites and specialized international teams from Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and Palestine together with experts from Austria, France, Spain, the European Commission and ICCROM arriving to Italy to support national disaster response. This is the scenario of “PROMEDHEX 2018”, the simulation exercise which will take place from 19 to 21 June in the town of Lucca (Italy). The exercise is organised by the Italian Civil Protection Department under PROMEDHE, an EU funded project also involving the civil protection authorities of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and Palestine.

The field exercise is the closing event of a comprehensive capacity building package on the protection of cultural heritage during disasters developed with the project’s partners over almost two years of activities. “PROMEDHEX 2018” is set out to test the ability of four mixed teams of experts from Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and Palestine to coordinate operations on-site with the Italian Civil Protection system.

“PROMEDHEX 2018” will be based on a scenario where a serious earthquake affecting the area of Lucca leads the Italian Civil Protection system to request international assistance in the field of cultural heritage based in the four countries of the project’s consortium. The experts are requested to help assess the losses incurred in the main cultural heritage sites of the town, where damages to churches, monuments, statues and pieces of art are reported, and to plan for immediate response actions. The exercise will also include rescue operations, first aid and safeguard measures on damaged cultural heritage.

At the event- hosted by the Municipality of Lucca, are expected to take part more than hundred people, including role-players, observers and evaluators. Representatives from the General-Directorate of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and UNESCO will participate to the event. On its side, the Italian Civil Protection Department will be present with a team of experts and officers in coordination with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the Firefighters, the Carabinieri, the Tuscany Region and the Municipality of Lucca. To support the development of the exercise volunteers from the Italian civil protection system organisations will assist the operations and give support to the role-players.

The activities developed under PROMEDHE build on the expertise gained during disasters by the Italian authorities in the last fifty years and starting in 1966 when severe floods threatened the major historic and artistic heritage of Florence. This event, including other recent outstanding disasters with a heavy impact on moveable and immoveable heritage (the 1997 earthquake in Assisi, the 2012 earthquake in Emilia-Romagna, etc.), have convinced the authorities to organize prevention and intervention measures through the Civil Protection System. The impressive impact of disasters on the Italian cultural heritage sites triggered the set-up of a coordinated system for prevention, preparedness and response to emergencies involving the Italian Civil Protection, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the Italian Firefighters Corps, the Police Department and all the relevant local authorities. During the project, the Italian Civil Protection Department, as coordinator, has made its background information, lessons learned and expertise, available to the project’s partners allowing them to increase skills and capacities among specialised team of experts.

Lucca was chosen as the stage of “PROMEDHEX 2018” as the town offers an interesting setting, first as it shows a high density of cultural heritage sites enclosed by walls and surrounded by the mountains, secondly because the area was threatened by different types of natural disasters in the past and hence particularly exposed to risks. The on-site activities, which took place during the project’s lifetime in Lucca, were developed with the aim to work on real-case scenarios and provide the participants with practical insights.

PROMEDHE is funded by the General Directorate of the European Commission for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO). The project’s consortium includes the Italian Civil Protection Department (DPC), as Coordinator, the Cyprus Civil Defence (CCD), the Palestinan Civil Defence (PCD), the National Emergency Management Agency of Israel, (NEMA), the Jordan Civil Defence (JCD) and Fondazione Hallgarten – Franchetti Centro Studi Villa Montesca. PROMEDHE looks at integrating cultural heritage into national disaster and risk reduction strategies by creating a skilled cross border regional network of experts able to operate during disasters for the protection and safeguard of cultural heritage sites. The project’s main objective is to create a cross border regional network of experts to cooperate and share experiences in the field of cultural heritage protection during disaster management.