Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Netherlands: New Act Addressing Disaster Emergency Prepareness in Force

(Dec. 28, 2010) The Ministry of Security and Justice (MSJ) of the Netherlands recently issued a tripartite document on the Dutch Security Regions Act (Wet veiligheidsregio's) that entered into force on October 1, 2010. Part I of the document provides general information on the Act. Part II is the consolidated text of the Act and the Official Instruction for the King's Commissioner; Part III comprises the Security Regions Decision (Besluit veiligheidsregio's) and the Security Regions Personnel Decision (Besluit personeel veiligheidsregio's) (with reference to the Ministerial Regulation on security regions' personnel). (Press Release, Ministry of Security and Justice of the Netherlands, Dutch Security Regions Act Part I (Dec. 17, 2010),
.) According to the MSJ document:

The Security Regions Act regulates the administrative embedding and the organisation of the emergency services. The Security Regions Decision, together with the Ministerial Regulation, sets quality requirements for the organisations in the security regions. The Security Regions Personnel Decision describes the positions in the fire services and the regional medical assistance organisation, including multidisciplinary positions and describes the corporate fire services in terms of core tasks, related competencies and assessment criteria. This enables uniformity to be achieved which is a prerequisite for interregional assistance and supra-regional action. (Id. at 20.)


The adoption of the Dutch Security Regions Act is based not only on the government's prior experience in handling “classic” disasters in the Netherlands, such as those involving fire and fireworks, respectively, in 2001 and 2000, but also on a broader concept of disaster (to include, for example, threats posed by epidemics and terrorism) and of disaster management. As the MSJ points out, “[t]he new forms of threat require a different type of approach, different partners and a different strategy. The need arose for a bigger organisational scale than the municipal scale: most municipalities are too small to be able to perform all tasks required for disaster and crisis management.” Increased effectiveness and professionalism in the country's emergency services was necessary, to be achieved by establishing “uniform service levels … within cooperation areas (security regions) to facilitate mutual assistance and escalation” [of response]. (Id. at 8.)

The aim of the Act is “to achieve an efficient and high-quality organisation of the fire services, medical assistance and crisis management under one regional management board. The Act stipulates that as a common rule, security regions must be structured on the same scale as the police regions.” (Id.) Municipalities had already been required to form regions for purposes of crisis management under earlier legislation, but the Security Regions Act calls for a more clearly defined, integrated, and coordinated system.

Topics Covered Under the Security Regions Act

Sections 2 to 7 of the 82-section Act cover the municipality and the role of the municipal executive. The mayor has basic responsibility for organizing fire services, medical assistance, and disaster and crisis management. The Act specifies the tasks and powers to be transferred from the municipality to the security region, the meaning of extended local administration, and the security region's obligation to consult the municipal councils. In emergency situations, the Act stipulates, the mayor continues to be in charge of the fire services with the authority to give orders if there is danger; he also retains supreme command, with the power to give orders to organisations that take part in combating a disaster but are not under his authority. “However, this power of supreme command has not been expanded to crisis situations where other powers than public order and security are at issue. The responsibility for managing a crisis is primarily vested in administrative bodies that have the authority to take the necessary measures” (such as the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in the case of the Dutch hoof-and-mouth disease crisis). (Id. at 16.)

The security region, which is “a form of extended local government,” is covered under sections 8 to 24 of the Act. An annex to the Act prescribes the division of the territory of the Netherlands into security regions. The mayors of the municipalities of a security region are to draw up joint regulations to establish the security region; those regulations form the security region's legal basis. Each security region must have “a properly trained professional organisation for disaster and crisis management which is able to deal with large-scale incidents.” (Id. at 20.)

Other sections of the Act cover, among other subjects: fire services and the regional medical assistance organization (§§ 25-31 & 32-34, respectively); supra-local disasters and crises (§§ 39-44, prescribing that the chairman of the management board of the security regions will be the one person in command and will convene a regional policy team with a regional operations leader whom the chairman will appoint); information and communication (§§ 45-50); powers under exceptional circumstances (§§ 52-54, with the “final remedy” that the Minister of the Interior can take over all or some of the powers of the King's Commissioner and of the mayor); financial provisions (§§ 55-56); and supervision (§§ 57-65, by the Public Order and Safety Inspectorate).