Specialized Civil Protection teams

Besides extinguishing fires, rescuing people out of their vehicles and distributing sand bags in case of floods, the Civil Protection and the fire departments also have a number of tasks for which they need to use special techniques or need special equipment. The non-everyday character of these missions requires the intervention of capable and specifically trained personnel. To be able to execute these specialized tasks correctly, a few specialized teams were created. The members of these teams have followed additional trainings in their specialty and can practice their skills regularly during exercises and real interventions.

Some specialized teams consist of personnel of the fire departments and the Civil Protection; other teams are organized within of these emergency services.


Assistance Teams with dogs

These teams can choose a certain specialization or perfect themselves in both specializations:

- The “rescue dogs” search for (living) persons buried under the rubble after buildings falling down or earthquakes.

- The in Dutch so-called “vlakterevierenhonden” search systematically vast areas without a track or reference smell. These dogs search for each person they can find.

In Belgium there are over 20 relief teams with dogs. They are members of the fire departments or the Civil Protection and passed, after a thorough training to become a relief dog team, the exam of the specialization(s) of choice. Afterwards the dog handlers still practice on average 1 to 2 times a week with their dogs to keep up their own skills and those of their dog(s) regarding searching under the rubble, obedience, agility and endurance.

The relief teams with dogs intervene on average 10 times a year. The best known intervention in Belgium was the one after the gas explosion in Liège on 27 January 2011. Then two relief teams with dogs were deployed to search the apartment building that fell down for survivors.
They are also often sent abroad to participate in international interventions or exercises. After the earthquake in Haiti for instance four Belgian relief teams with dogs, as part of the USAR team, were sent to search for survivors under the rubble.

Call up rescue dog teams

In the event of a calamity, disaster or claim, the Director of the Operational Command Post (Dir-Pc-Ops) and the Commander of the rescue zone or his substitute may request the intervention of a rescue dog team via the rescue centre 112.

If the chief of the police force and the representative of the Federal Police wish to appeal to these teams, it must be done through the Information and Communication Centre of the Federal Police (CIC).







The composition of a B-FAST team depends on the type of intervention and therefore on the type of disaster (floods, pollution, earthquakes, tidal waves, etc.).


The Civil Protection makes three types of contribution available to B-FAST:

  1. Permanent modules (intervention teams), which are standardized and approved according to international quality standards, by the European authorities. The Civil Protection has available a FRUB (Flood Rescue Using Boats) module and an HCP (High Capacity Pumping) module.
  2. Ad hoc capacities – according to the situation and the request from the affected country – such as teams specialized in the CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological & nuclear) detection who have measurement vehicles and a mobile laboratory available, and are therefore able to quickly analyze samples of potentially dangerous products directly on the spot, and who also possess a high level of expertise, maybe along with means of decontamination, drones, etc.
  3. As a response service in charge of logistical support, should a disaster occur in Belgium, the Civil Protection also makes logistics specialists available to B-FAST and to its partner organizations. These experts can, for instance, provide backup to the Public Health's water purification capacities or help the partner organizations with the transportation of their means of intervention. Among other things, the Civil Protection contributed, along with the Belgian Federal Police, to the development of a DVI (Disaster Victim Identification) expertise within the Thai Police (after the 2004 tsunami) and to the deployment of the UC Louvain's B-Life biological mobile laboratory in Guinea (during the Ebola fever epidemic in 2014-2015).

Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers

In case of incidents with dangerous substances, Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers advise the commanders and policy makers on these substances and the possible means to deal with them. They develop a method and do so, taking into account the surroundings and the environment.

In 2010, 2011 and 2013 a postgraduate Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers was organized, which resulted in about 40 new dangerous goods safety advisers. This training consists of a basic training with a scientific underpinning in which the university gives chemistry that is related to the fire departments. This first part is completed with a practical component, given by firemen and the provincial training centre, in which for instance the safety of the transport of dangerous substances, the calculation of the safe distance compared to a chemical leak and the method in case of a fire in a lab with bacteria or viruses are discussed.
The first “generation” of dangerous goods safety advisers followed their training in the Netherlands.

Call Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers

In the provinces where there are already dangerous goods safety advisers and where there is a standby duty, they are called through the EC112. Some corpses dispose of their own dangerous goods safety advisers they can call themselves.



Divers of the Civil Protection

In Belgium there are in total over 750 persons who dive for the fire departments or the Civil Protection. The operational unit of the Civil Protection of Crisnée has, just as about 130 fire departments, a team of divers. Where the fire departments take care of the urgent diving interventions, the Civil Protection does the less urgent and in particular long-lasting diving interventions.

The divers of the Civil Protection execute on average about 60 diving interventions a year (adding up to an average of 4000 working hours per year). They mainly search for missing persons, vehicles and arms to bring these to the surface. To do so, they use specialized equipment such as a sonar and an echo-sounder. These interventions are always done at the request of the local or federal police (waterway police, the cell missing persons, the Disaster Victim Identification team) or Justice.

It concerns thus often long-lasting search missions in the framework of judicial inquiries, but our divers sometimes also save humans, assist in case of floods, take water or sediment samples and protect persons during manifestations.

Call the team of divers of the Civil Protection

The organization of diving interventions by the team of divers of the operational unit of the Civil Protection of Crisnée always passes through Claude Chardon.

Responsible person team of divers Civil Protection
Tel: 04 257 66 00

Divers of the fire departments

In Belgium there are in total over 750 persons who dive for the fire departments or the Civil Protection. The operational unit of the Civil Protection of Crisnée has, just as about 130 fire departments, a team of divers. Where the fire departments take care of the urgent diving interventions, the Civil Protection does the less urgent and in particular long-lasting diving interventions.

High Capacity Pumping

The European authorities have approved the High Capacity Pumping (HCP) module of the Civil Protection according to the international quality standards. That module is integrated into the intervention capacities of the European Civil Protection Pool, formerly, Voluntary Pool) of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. It already took part to several international large-scale exercises – in Paris (Sequana, 2016), in Laubegg (Austria, 2017), in Madrid (RIWATEREX, 2018) … – and specifically intervened in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014.


This HCP module is made of:

  • four to twelve very high flow pumps (5,000 to 60,0000 litres/minute);
  • 2,000 metres of pipes;
  • about twenty trained specialists.

It can be called up within six hours for a ten days intervention abroad within a radius of 3,000 km and transportable by road (trucks of the Civil Protection). It satisfies the criteria of autonomy, capacity and interoperability with other intervention teams.

Among its equipment, the HCP module comprehends a Goliath pump, one of the most powerful dewatering pumps in Europe. The flow of this pump is 66,000/minute so it can drain a 25 m x 10 m swimming pool, 1.5 m deep, in less than 10 minutes. 

Lately, thanks to the financial support of the European Commission, the Civil Protection acquired a new very high flow pump (51,000 litres/minute). It comes in addition to the existing equipment of the HTD (Heavy Technical Deployment) cluster. This new pump is of course deployable in Belgium but can also be called up for a departure abroad with the HCP module of the Civil Protection.


They are trained by and execute necrosearch operations at the request of the DVI team (Disaster Victim Identification) of the federal police. This implies that they locate and exhume buried or hidden victims of murder or manslaughter. These interventions are always executed in cooperation with a large number of partners, such as the Cell Missing Persons of the federal police, dog handlers, police physicians, odontologists, photographers, architects, social assistants of the Red Cross, ...

Because these search operations often are very demanding psychologically speaking and  negligence during necrosearch operations can lead to the irrevocably disappearing of evidence, a specialized training is necessary to be part of the IBIS team. Future IBIS experts are initiated in all aspects of necrosearch during one week: identification of missing or deceased persons, deontological methods, excavation techniques, ... The excavations by the DVI team always take place in the framework of a judicial inquiry. The importance of an accurate methodology therefore constantly is emphasized during the training, because an excavation cannot be redone.

As soon as the area that needs to be searched is defined, the IBIS teams of the Civil Protection come into action with a crane and excavators. The intervening persons wear disposable clothes, masks and gloves that are regularly replaced to protect them (manipulation of corpses) and to not run the risk of adding interfering traces. The soil is cautiously excavated, centimetre per centimetre, under the watchful eye of the experts of DVI. Then a long sieving operation follows in order not to overlook any clues. Besides excavators, sometimes cranes, pumps, salvage containers and thermographic cameras are used as well for searching and excavating deceased persons.

Each intervention is concluded by a visit of the IBIS team to the psychologists of the stress team of the federal police. Talking about these search actions in often horrifying circumstances, helps the members in the coping process. The best known intervention in the past few years is the one in the framework of the dossier Dutroux, but our IBIS teams also contributed their bit after the tsunami in Thailand.

Call IBIS teams

The Cell Missing Persons of the federal police that centralizes these calls for the police, contacts –depending on the localization of the excavation- the operational unit of the Civil Protection that is territorially competent. 

Rescue with ropes

These interventions can take place in natural environments such as cliff faces, ravines, stone quarries or watercourses. Moreover, the RED teams can also provide assistance in an urban environment in case of evacuations from (sick) persons out of buildings or they can intervene on high industrial buildings or on the roof of a church. Sometimes they also search for human remains in barely accessible places at the request of the Cell Missing Persons of the DVI team (Disaster Victim Identification) of the federal police.

The members of the RED teams use climbing techniques that are based on rescue techniques in the mountains and in subterranean places, completed with years of practical experience. To join GRIMP it is necessary to have knowledge of the specific techniques for protection in case of falls and rescue operations on a higher altitude. For the practice of this discipline the members of the Civil Protection have followed trainings in France organized by specialized training corpses. The persons in charge of the team return to France every five years to follow an intensive ten-day teaching practice to keep up with the evolution of the techniques and to discover new equipment.

This intervention method requires light and compact equipment. Because of the combination of resistance, suppleness and lightness, the equipment used by the GRIMP teams allow them to quickly adapt to every situation and to safely evacuate persons. The equipment is regularly subject to strict control by registered institutions and is inspected thoroughly after each use.




The speleology emergency team executes interventions in barely accessible, subterranean places, such as stone quarries, tunnels that are out of use, mine galleries or holes. They offer assistance to persons in distress in this environment or provide assistance to subterranean interventions.

This team was created in cooperation with the Union Belge de Spéléologie (UBS) and consists of experienced speleologists who followed an adequate training that stresses the specific difficulties in case of subterranean rescue operations. They can get reinforcement from specialized teams such as the RED teams and the divers, or from specialized equipment such as high capacity pumps.

The Directorate-General Civil Security organizes and coordinates the trainings, exercises and interventions of the speleology emergency teams.

Call speleology emergency teams

For further information on the interventions of the speleology emergency teams, you can contact the operational unit of Crisnée.

Operational unit of Crisnée
Tel: 04/257 66 00


These teams deploy for instance rescue dogs to search the rubble. Besides, they also have specialized equipment to localize and rescue people buried under the rubble, such as telescopic cameras that can be shoved in the rubble and sound equipment to trace sounds under the rubble.

USAR-teams are composed by members of the Civil Protection and the fire departments who were specifically trained for this. They have to follow the INSARAG External Classification procedure (IEC) of the United Nations to be internationally recognized. When a USAR team is needed abroad, Belgium sends it in the form of a B-FAST team (Belgian First Aid and Support). This Belgian assistance abroad is almost always coordinated on the European and/or UN level.

USAR teams are composed by specialized members of the Civil Protection and the fire departments, completed with specifically trained medical personnel. These people are trained to fully autonomously save human lives in difficult circumstances (tropical heat, chaos, …) during ten days 24h/24, in shifts of 12h. The Belgian B-FAST USAR team meets the standards of the United Nations and obtained in 2010, after a thorough audit, the quality label INSARAG-certified as Medium USAR team.

In 2010, Belgium for instance sent a USAR team to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince after the heavy earthquake . They were part of the Belgian B-FAST team. During one week they searched for survivors under the rubble. In the end, they succeeded to rescue three persons alive from the rubble.

Call a USAR team

When a USAR team is needed abroad, Belgium sends it in the form of a B-FAST team (Belgian First Aid and Support). This Belgian assistance abroad is coordinated through the Emergency Response & Coordination Centre (ERCC) of the European Commission.

A USAR team needs to be able to be mobilized and deployed in a very short time, as every hour counts when rescuing victims buried under the rubble. Therefore, the DGCS disposes of an effective database that sends specific text messages to the USAR members in case of an assistance request. The members are selected on the basis of their training, need to be in order with vaccinations, service passports, and other parameters.