The calamity situation, regulated by the Basic Civil Protection Law, was declared by the Prime Minister, António Costa, for the second time, the first occurring during the 2017 forest fires.

When is the calamity situation declared?

The calamity situation can be declared when, in view of the occurrence to which it is associated and its foreseeable intensity, the need to adopt exceptional measures to prevent, react or restore the normal conditions of life in the areas affected by its effects.

The calamity situation is applied in cases of major disasters and is the highest level of intervention provided for in the Civil Protection Bases Law, after the alert and contingency situation.

The alert situation was that in which the country found itself before the state of emergency was declared on 18 March.

Who declares the calamity situation?

The declaration of the calamity situation is the responsibility of the Government and takes the form of a resolution by the Council of Ministers.

However, this resolution of the Council of Ministers may be preceded by a joint order from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Internal Administration recognizing the need to declare the situation of calamity.

According to the Basic Law of Civil Protection, it is also up to the self-governing bodies of the autonomous regions to approve specific emergency plans for each of them.

In the Azores and Madeira, the civil protection emergency plans at the municipal level are approved by the member of the Regional Government that oversees the civil protection sector, and the National Civil Protection Commission is informed.

Madeira has decreed the situation of calamity in the archipelago, with effect from 0:00 on Sunday, while the Regional Government of the Azores declared the situation of calamity only for the weekend in São Miguel, which will be followed by the state of contingency on this island.

What distinguishes the state of emergency from the calamity situation?

The state of emergency is an initiative of the President of the Republic, approved by resolution of the Assembly of the Republic, after hearing the Government. The state of calamity can be decreed by the Government.

The state of emergency is the second degree of the states of exception provided for by law, it can determine the “partial suspension of the exercise of rights, freedoms and guarantees”, while in the situation of calamity the right to strike and to demonstrate is not prohibited.

In a state of emergency, the Armed Forces are on standby and in a calamity situation, civil protection forces are responsible for operations.

Who monitors the calamity situation?

The Basic Law for Civil Protection states that all citizens and other private entities are obliged "to provide civil protection authorities with the personal collaboration required of them, respecting the orders and guidelines addressed to them and corresponding to the respective requests".

The refusal to comply with these obligations corresponds to the crime of disobedience.

However, the law provides that security forces and services may also intervene in conjunction with protection agents, and the Armed Forces may also collaborate in denial protection missions.

Can limits be imposed on the movement of persons?

During the calamity situation, “limits or restrictions on the movement or permanence of people, other living beings or vehicles” can be set and this limitation can be made for reasons of safety of the own or of the operations.

Article 22 of the Basic Law for Civil Protection refers to epidemic outbreaks as a reason for restrictions on the movement of people when referring to the “establishment of limits or conditions to the movement or permanence of people, other living beings or vehicles, namely through subjection to collective controls to prevent the spread of epidemic outbreaks ”.

The calamity situation also allows the establishment of sanitary and security fences and “rationalization of the use of public transport, communications and water and energy services, as well as the consumption of essential goods”.

During the calamity situation is it possible to make a temporary requisition for goods and services?

The declaration of the calamity situation implies the recognition of the need to temporarily order goods or services, namely regarding the verification of urgency and the public and national interest that justify the request.

The requisition of goods or services is determined by a joint order of the Ministers of Internal Administration and Finance, which sets out its object, the beginning and the foreseeable term of use, the beneficiary operating entity and the entity responsible for the payment of compensation for any losses resulting from the requisition.

What does the law say about access to natural and energy resources?

The declaration of the calamity situation is a sufficient condition to legitimize the free access of civil protection agents to private property in the area covered, as well as the use of private natural or energy resources, to the extent strictly necessary for carrying out the actions aimed at restoring normal living conditions.

Does the calamity situation have a duration?

It is up to the Government to decide the duration. According to the Civil Protection Basis Law, the Council of Ministers resolution that declares the calamity situation "expressly mentions" the nature of the event that originated the declared situation, the temporal and territorial scope, the establishment of specific directives related to the operational activity civil protection agents and entities and institutions involved in protection and rescue operations, the inventory procedures for damages caused and the criteria for granting material and financial support.

Other situations foreseen in the calamity situation?

The calamity situation can establish the civil mobilization of people, for certain periods of time, and implies the automatic activation of the civil protection emergency plans of the respective territorial level.