The mission of the Sector for Emergency Situations is to build, maintain and improve the ability of the entire nation, how to help prevent the risks, and to respond to the challenges and mitigate the consequences of various disasters that we as a region are prone to. Sector consolidates and coordinates existing national resources for protection and rescue and emergency response. Main activities of the Sector are strengthening the institutional capacity and its position on the national and international level, in order to act effectively in the field of protection and rescue. Main priorities include identification, assessment and management of disaster risk and improving early warning systems, with the aim of organizing an adequate and timely response to emergency situations. Sector for Emergency Management is the coordinating body in the event of emergencies at the national level. Further responsibilities include the implementation of preventive measures and actions for preventing or mitigating the effects of emergencies and disaster management. The aim is to establish effective integrated system for protection and rescue in emergency situations in the Republic of Serbia.
Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection
The institutional mandate for floods protection lies within the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection (MAEP). The Directorate for Water (DW) under this Ministry combines the responsibility for water resource management and floods protection on “level 1” water courses, drainage, water supply and sanitation services. Three public water companies (PWCs) – Srbijavode PWC, Vode Vojvodine PWC and the Beogradvode PWC – are responsible for a wide variety of tasks, including operational management of water infrastructure, distribution of water to users, licensing of water resources, as well as hydrological monitoring and floods protection. They are also in charge with management of dams and reservoirs. Water and floods management on “class 2” water courses is the responsibility of local authorities on the territory under their administration.
Since 2003, the core responsibility for observations, forecasts, and warnings of extreme meteorological and hydrological events resides with the Republic Hydrometeorological Service of Serbia (RMHSS). RMHSS operates a comprehensive national observations network that contributes to the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) and adheres to the standards of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Institutional coordination during the disaster
Despite limitations in financial resources and operational capacities the Government floods response benefitted from a strong institutional framework for coordination. Authorities at national and local levels provided leadership and coordination support for participating emergency response entities to facilitate a speedy delivery of assistance to affected areas. In line with the Law on Emergency Situations and Civil Protection, the NEMH led the coordination and management of the overall floods response and coordinated the actions and deployments of multiple floods response actors and expert auxiliary and logistics units to affected areas.
At the national level the Emergency Management Sector provided the NEMH with expert, technical and operational support. NEMH convened daily emergency coordination meetings with key emergency management focal points appointed by its permanent members among line ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection; Ministry of Defense; Ministry Health; and Ministry of Construction, Transport & Infrastructure. The Minister of Interior acted as the Commander of the NEMH while the Head of Emergency Management Sector led the day-to-day operational activities of NEMH. The coordination and management of the rescue activities were informed by key national-level experts of the scientific institutions, public utility companies, firefighting units, the ambulance service and city rescue service.
Under the direction of the national-level NEMH, municipal counterpart bodies were assigned to coordinate and manage humanitarian response activities with emergency response partners on the ground. Emergency response coordination and management were guided by pre-existing floods contingency plans that had been developed for the floods prone areas. The municipal NEMH instructed its standby members to deploy to affected areas and execute specific tasks related to the rescue activities. The police, the Serbian Army, gendarmerie and firefighter and rescue units played key roles in evacuating affected populations and providing humanitarian relief assistance to areas most in need, and coordinated closely with the municipal emergency headquarters in the planning and execution of such tasks. Also coordinating closely with the local NEMH, the Serbian Red Cross managed the delivery, warehousing and distribution of emergency relief items to the affected population. The municipal NEMH was tasked to work alongside a variety of other specialized teams undertaking water pumping, decontamination, collection and disposal of carcasses, embankment works and the monitoring of temporary displacement centres.