Lisbon Civil Protection plans earthquake responses with parish councils


Lisbon, 05 Dec 2023 (Lusa) – The organized response of emergency services to an earthquake can take up to around 72 hours, which is why the Municipal Civil Protection Service (SMPC) of Lisbon is working with parish councils to plan relief.

According to Margarida Castro Martins, director of the SMPC in Lisbon, the experience of other earthquakes suggests that it is estimated that the organized response of the emergency services “may take up to around 72 hours”, that is, three days, and that in this period 95 % of the help is provided by the population, family, neighbours and friends.

The person responsible, who was speaking at an initiative promoted by the association Lisboa E-Nova – Lisbon Energy-Environment Agency, on “Local Emergency Planning”, explained that the city council is thus preparing with the parish councils the prevention and response to the occurrence of an earthquake and ‘tsunami’.

This takes into account that no one knows the territory and the populations better than the parish councils, their workers and their residents.

The SMPC leader highlighted that the seismic risk in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (AML) is considered “high to very high” and that the basis of the capital’s municipality’s response is the Civil Protection Special Emergency Plan for Seismic Risk in AML and neighbouring municipalities.

The Lisbon municipality, with 24 parishes and 545,796 inhabitants, has Lumiar as the most populous parish, with 46,334 residents, and Misericórdia as the least populous, with 9,658 residents, who naturally have “different realities”, and only Local Units of Civil Protection (ULPC) in the parishes of Alcântara (2016), Misericórdia (2020) and Penha de França (2021).

The municipality is preparing local emergency plans in the parishes of Avenidas Novas, Beato, Belém, Campo de Ourique, and updating those of Arroios and Olivais.

In addition to seismic risk plans, the municipality is also promoting an evacuation plan for the riverside area in the event of a ‘tsunami’, with a warning and alert system, following an earthquake.


The municipality already has two sirens installed, in Praça do Império, in the parish of Belém, and in Ribeira das Naus, in the parish of Santa Maria Maior, and has two more planned for 2024, in Doca de Santos, (Alcântara) and Estação de Santos (Estrela), foreseeing at least six more sirens in riverside parishes, by 2026.

The national director of risk prevention and management at the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority (ANEPC), Carlos Mendes, presented the work carried out on the seismic risk assessment in AML, which is also used for the plan for the Algarve region.

The official also highlighted that in these types of events “the first response is mainly a proximity response”, which “often is not even carried out by organized relief structures” and that, in the first hours, “citizen mutual aid mechanisms” operate mainly. .

The emergency plan for AML and neighbouring municipalities involves more than a hundred entities “for a coordinated response” to an earthquake situation, and in the case of an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 on the Richter scale, means of support from districts of outside the area, and the definition of runways for international assistance, namely the air bases of Monte Real and Beja, or Sintra and Montijo.

International support mechanisms can come from France, Spain and Morocco, but Carlos Mendes noted that, in the case of an earthquake like the one in 1755, Spain and Morocco could also be affected, and therefore help will have to be provided within the framework of other European countries.

The Lisboa E-Nova session, according to Eduardo Silva, from the organization, despite some technical problems, aimed to raise awareness of the seismic risk in the city of Lisbon and in AML, with the aim of guaranteeing a culture of prevention, urgent to anticipate not only “the capacity to respond, but also the way in which the response is given”, in a situation of possible catastrophe.