Reform

The reform of the civil security (in particular the fire departments and the Civil Protection) has three main goals:

  • an optimal organization of the relief provided to the population

  • increasing the safety of the citizens and relief workers

  • professionalization of the work frame  for the members of the emergency services, regarding training, equipment, standard operational procedures, uniform statute of professionals and volunteers in fire brigades, ...

The basic principles for the execution of the reform of the civil security are the following:

  • a uniform method of working, by means of which all fire brigades (emergency rescue zones) intervene in the same efficient and safe manner during interventions,

  • a thorough cooperation and more efficient division of tasks between emergency rescue zones, and between zones and units of the Civil Protection,

  • innovation, with the examination of the best means, trainings, procedures and regulations, and with the exchange of best practices,

  • a uniformization and revaluation of the administrative and pecuniary statute of the professional and voluntary firemen,

  • increase in scale, with a more efficient spending of the budget as a consequence.

In the law of 15 May 2007 regarding the civil security  the principles of the organization and functioning of the fire departments and the Civil Protection are determined.

34 emergency rescue zones

The organization of the fire departments entirely passes on 1/1/2016 from a municipal organization to a zonal system. The royal decree regarding the emergency rescue zones divides Belgium into 34 emergency rescue zones.

Maps of the 34 emergency rescue zones (pdf) - Update 11/2017

Legal base:

  • Royal decree of 2 February 2009 determining the territorial delineation of the emergency rescue zones

Execution of the reform 

Operational prezones

The operational prezones are the temporary precursors of the emergency rescue zones. At the end of 2012 these prezones were given legal personality. Because of this, the fire departments in the field can cooperate better and more efficiently and can control the federal grants. When a prezone purchases equipment, it since then belongs to the entire zone and no longer to a municipality. Since 2014 they can also recruit personnel.

Since 1/1/2014 all operational prezones that are ready to do so, can decide to become an emergency rescue zone. They then can conclude partnership agreements with other emergency rescue zones, but also with the operational units of the Civil Protection, police zones, provinces, etc. On 1/1/2016 all prezones will officially become emergency rescue zones.

Legal base:

  • Ministerial circular of 9 July 2012 – Reform of the civil security – Emergency rescue prezones with legal personality

  • Ministerial circular of 6 August 2012 –Reform of the civil security – Circular regarding the OPZ+ implementing decrees, the operational zonal organization plan and the consultation of the unions

  • Manual regarding the prezones with legal personality – One step between OPZ and emergency rescue zones

    Attachment 1 – Overview of the articles from the law of 15 May 2007 regarding the civil security, that are applicable to the prezones

    Agreement  disposal/detachment

  • Royal decree of 20 September 2012 modifying the royal decree of  8 November 1967 regarding, in times of peace, the organization of the municipal and regional fire departments and the coordination of the relief in case of fire

  • Royal decree of 20 September 2012 regarding the allowance of a federal grant to the prezones

 

Fastest adequate assistance

This principle means that the fire department that can get to the place of a loss fastest, will intervene. Before, it was the territorially competent fire department that intervened, regardless of whether another fire department actually could get to the place of the incident faster. The principle of the fastest adequate assistance is applied in practice since 2007.

In 2012 a royal decree regarding the determination of the minimal conditions of the fastest adequate help and the adequate means, was passed. The prezones and the emergency rescue zones now have time until 31 December 2017 to take the necessary measures to meet the conditions provided in this decree.

Legal base:

  • Royal decree of 10 November 2012 determining the minimal conditions for the fastest adequate assistance and for the adequate means

  • Circular. – Application of the royal decree of 10 November 2012 determining the minimal conditions for the fastest adequate assistance and for the adequate means

 

Personal protective equipment

A royal decree regarding the minimal standards for the personal and collective protective equipment obliges the fire departments to purchase the necessary protective equipment and to put it at the disposal of their firemen, according to the intervention and the risk this intervention implies.  This is a very important text that finally obliges the emergency rescue zones to put the adequate protective equipment at the disposal of their firemen.

The personal basic equipment (that can or needs to be completed with additional equipment) is the fire clothing consisting of:

  • a protective jacket and pair of trousers

  • intervention shoes

  • a fire helmet with lamp

  • protective gloves

  • a positioning belt and/or tool belt complement the clothing

According to the risks, there are also two variants of the personal basic equipment:

  • the technical equipment that better suits in case of non-fire interventions

  • the intervention clothing for urgent medical assistance

Legal base:

  • Royal decree of 30 August 2013 determining the minimal standards for the personal and collective protective equipment

  • Royal decree determining the minimal standards for the personal and collective protective equipment – Report to the King

  • Attachment table PPE – obligatory available protective equipment

 

Risk assessment

The emergency rescue zones need to draw up a multi-year policy plan and an operational organization plan, taking into account the risks in their zone. The first step is drawing up a risk assessment.

We distinguish two sorts of risks:

  • returning risks are based on statistics of incidents from the past years. It concerns the number of fires, of urgent medical interventions and of other urgent and non-urgent interventions. From this one can for instance deduce risk areas such as streets with many old buildings or industry.

  • punctual risks are natural, industrial or social risks, high-risk buildings or transport-related risks. A few examples: watercourses, chemical companies, mass events, hospitals and railways.

In the royal decree on the risk assessment it is determined how the risk assessment needs to be done. Besides a description of the territory, it always needs to include an inventory and evaluation of the risks on the territory of the emergency rescue zone. This is completed with maps and the means the zone provides to deal with these risks. The ultimate goal of this risk assessment is to cover as many risks as possible by gearing the location of the posts, the equipment and the recruitment of professional personnel and  volunteers to this.

Legal base:

  • Royal decree of 14 October 2013 determining the content of and the minimal conditions for the risk assessment meant in article 5, subsection 3, of the law of 15 May 2007 regarding the civil security.
 

The zone council

The zone council consists of all mayors of the municipalities of the zone. The mayor is a member of the council by right.

Within the zone council every mayor has one vote, except in case of voting regarding the draft of the budget, budget modifications and the annual accounts. In these cases every mayor has a number of votes that is proportional to the allocation of his/her municipality to the zone. A Royal Decree of 10 July 2013 fixes the calculation modes of the number of votes a zonal adviser disposes of within the council of the emergency rescue zone.

Moreover, a Royal Decree of 28 February 2014 fixes the conditions under which a zonal adviser of an emergency rescue zone who cannot execute his/her mandate alone due to a handicap, can be assisted by a confidant.

Legal base:

  • Royal decree of 10 July 2013 regarding the calculation of the number of votes a member of the zonal council disposes of in the council of the emergency rescue zone

  • Royal decree of 28 February 2014 regarding the conditions in which a member of the zonal council of an emergency rescue zone who, due to a handicap, cannot carry out his mandate independently, can have him accompanied by a confidential counsellor for the execution of this mandate

 

Personnel policy of the emergency rescue zones

A royal decree determines the minimal administrative and operational functions the organization chart of the zone needs to contain to assure the management of the zone and to achieve the goals specified in the multi-year policy plan.

The emergency rescue zones are encouraged to mutually divide the means and to contact other bodies (municipalities, province, police zone) to have the advantage of all useful services and, in particular of administrative support, for a small cost.

Legal base:

  • Draft of the royal decree regarding the minimal administrative and operational functions the zone needs to provide

  • Draft of the royal decree determining the criteria for the determination of the personnel plan for the operational personnel of the zones

  • Royal decree of 19 April 2014 determining the pecuniary statute of the operational personnel of the emergency rescue zones

  • Royal decree of 19 April 2014 determining the administrative statute of the operational personnel of the emergency rescue zones

  • Draft of royal decree determining the function profile of the commander of an emergency rescue zone and of the specific stipulations for his selection and his evaluation

  • Law of 19 April 2014 determining certain aspects of the organization of the working time of the operational professionals of the emergency rescue zones

 

Legal aid

The staff member of the zone that is summoned for acts committed during the execution of his/her functions receives legal aid from a lawyer at the expense of the zone. This staff member also receives compensation at the expense of the zone for damage to goods suffered during the execution of his/her functions. A Royal Decree fixes the conditions under which the legal aid and the compensation of goods can be at the expense of the emergency rescue zone.

 

Multi-year policy plan and operational organization plan of the emergency rescue zones

Two royal decrees respectively concern the multi-year policy plan and the operational organization plan. The multi-year policy plan contains the vision for an emergency rescue zone for six years, amongst other things on the subject of priorities, personnel policy, means and posts. The zonal council draws this document up.

The operational organization plan contains the more concrete goals, priorities and the practical functioning of an emergency rescue zone, in order to be able to comply with the multi-year policy plan. The commander of the zone draws the organization plan up.

Legal base:

  • Draft of the royal decree determining the minimal content and the structure of the multi-year policy plan of the emergency rescue zones

  • Draft of the royal decree determining the minimal content and the structure of the operational organization plan of the emergency rescue zones and modifying the royal decree of 10 November 2012 determining the minimal conditions for the fastest adequate assistance and for the adequate means

 

The bookkeeping of the emergency rescue zones

A Royal Decree fixes the budgetary and bookkeeping rules that need to regulate the bookkeeping of the emergency rescue zones.

 

The transfer of goods

The Royal Decree wants to offer a model of inventory of these goods, as well as to fix the assessment rules for these same goods.
These assessment rules differ depending on whether these goods are moveable or immovable.

 

The financing of the emergency rescue zones

The zones are financed by:

  1. the allocations of the municipalities to the zone;
  2. the federal allocations;
  3. the possible provincial allocations;
  4. the compensations for the missions for which the King allows the reclamation;
  5. different sources.
 

Division of tasks and missions of the emergency services

A draft of royal decree modifies the division of tasks between the fire departments and the Civil Protection. It optimally takes into account the complementarity of these two emergency services. The fire departments take care of the basic missions regarding civil security, while the Civil Protection takes charge of the lengthy and specialized interventions. The possibility is given to the emergency rescue zones, by means of a cooperation agreement, to also appeal to another emergency rescue zone or to the operational units of the Civil Protection for certain  basic missions when other means than the minimal means mentioned in attachment 1 of the royal decree regarding the determination of the minimal conditions of the fastest adequate assistance and the adequate means, are needed.

Legal base:

  • Royal decree of 14 October 2013 modifying  the royal decree of 25 April 2007 determining the missions of the emergency services that can be recovered and the missions that are free

 

Fire prevention

The Royal Decree of 19 December 2014 determining the organization of the fire prevention in the emergency rescue zones determines the main tasks of the fire prevention: sensitize, provide advice and control. First the zones need to inform and sensitize the citizen regarding the possible dangers. They do this amongst other things through prevention campaigns, information sessions and open days. Besides sensitizing, the zones also need to provide fire prevention advice. That advice is always without obligations. Citizens, architects, authorities, …, can ask for specific information. Fire prevention controls only take place in the framework of a potential action of the authorities or in preparation to a decision of an authority such as granting a permit or closing down a building. The emergency rescue zones also have to draw up an action plan in which they mention their future fire prevention initiatives and determine their policy.  The action plan is tuned to the framework policy document of the FPS Home Affairs.

Legal base:

  • Royal decree of 19 December 2014 determining the organization of the fire prevention in the emergency rescue zones

 

Requisitions

The minister of Home Affairs, a mayor, a zone commander or their respective representatives can require persons or objects, amongst other things in the framework of crisis situations and the management of big events. This is only possible when the competent public services are not available and when there is a lack of means. In the past there often was confusion about when and how this needs to be done. In the draft of royal decree on requisitions, the possibilities, conditions, limitations and practical terms for requisitions are clarified.

Legal base:

  • Draft of royal decree determining the terms of the requisition competence meant in article 181 of the law of 15 May 2007 regarding the civil security

 

Training

The trainings, and in particular the advanced trainings, are an essential element of the reform. At this moment a royal decree regarding the training is prepared. This decree will determine the training pathway “from the basis to the top” for firemen and the agents of the Civil Protection. With this, we mainly strive for uniformity and professionalization. In other words, a fireman from Arlon and a fireman from Oostende will have the same level of basic knowledge. To evolve in their career, they have to follow more training. Specific training linked to risks inherent in the zone, complete the basic training.This concerns both the professional and the voluntary personnel.

 

Statute of the administrative personnel – execution of article 207 of the law

Article 207 of the law gives the administrative personnel that are transferred from the municipality to the zone, the possibility to remain subject to the stipulations of their old municipal statute.

The royal decree determines that this choice relates to:

  • or the pecuniary stipulations and the social benefits,
  • or the municipal leave conditions,
  • or both.

For the administrative personnel the King is only competent to determine which stipulations fall under the choice for the old statute as determined in article 207 of the law. The zone disposes, in accordance with article 106, third paragraph of the law, of the competence to determine the statute of the administrative personnel (including the necessary transitional measures and possible guarantees for acquired rights).

 

Follow-up of the reform

Supervision committee of the reform of the civil security:

At the beginning of 2015 most of the former 250 Belgian fire departments have become emergency rescue zones in the framework of the reform of the civil security. In these newly formed zones questions still rise often regarding the legislation, their organization, and the financial aspects. The guidance commission of the reform of the civil security bundles the questions that are still unanswered, examines these and provides advice to the minister of Home Affairs on this matter. The guidance commission consists of representatives of the executive office of the minister of Home Affairs, the Directorate-General Civil Security, the associations of the firefighters (BVV, FRCSB and Beprobel), the minister of Public Health, the minister for the Budget, the governors and their administrations, the Civil Protection and the VVSG and the UVWC. The representatives of the councils of zone commanders and the representatives of the associations of volunteers are included as experts.

The reports of the supervision committee are available on the pages in French or Dutch.