PORTUGAL – Villages in parts of Portugal at risk of forest fires are to have a “safety official” charged with warning residents of dangers, organising evacuations and running awareness campaigns about fires, under two new government programmes unveiled on Monday.
The ‘Safe Village’ and ‘Safe People’ programmes – aimed at preventing and reducing the effects of fires – were developed together with local councils. They are being presented and launched in Ansião, in Leiria district, one of the areas affected by the fires that devastated swathes of central Portugal in October.
The ceremony, to be overseen by the minister of internal administration, Eduardo Cabrita, is to see the signing of a protocol by the National Civil Protection Authority (ANPC), the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities (ANMP) and the National Association of Parish Councils (ANAFRE) on the implementation of the two programmes.
These are to be implemented across the country, but their main target is the 189 municiplaities with parishes at risk, with a view to “management of combustible [material], evacuation plan for vilalges and awareness campaigns,” the minister told Lusa.
The function of the new “village safety official”, he said, is to “transmit warnings to the population, organise the evacuation of the settlement if needed and to do awareness-raising actions among the population.”
The programmes are also to define places of refuge in the villages and ensure locals know what to do in case of fire, as well as how to avoid risk behaviours, as well as marking evaction routes in villages.
There is also to be a nationwide campaign, starting in May, on radio and television, in newspapers and on social media, focussing on general measures to protect against fire.
The ministry expects the two programmes to be implemented from May, above all by local councils.
Under the protocol now to be signed, the ANPC is to distribute signage and 10,000 self-protection kits and other equipment, list criteria for the identifition of suitable refuges, create mechanisms by which residents can be warned, carry out local and national campaigns, and oversee drills.
For their part, the ANMP and ANAFRE are to cooperate in distributiong documents produced by the ANPC, organise information sessions for residents, create fire prevention measures, identify refuges and put up signs indicating evacuation routes.