DECENT LAW ON DISASTER PROTECTION IS DRAFTED AT LAST
People have been trying to forecast and gain command of nature from ancient times. The man's fight for supremacy over natural calamities and the surprises they bring have been subject to research and the preparation to meet them - priority task for each country. In this aspect, Bulgarian legislation (as it happens in many other fields) comes late. The process of updating the legislative base that regulates responsibilities in this field has been underestimated for years and has always been postponed. Last year Bulgaria suffered huge losses from the floods, but at the same time people witnessed follies like this - while the water element swallowed houses and poured on land, rulers quarrelled who was responsible for what. Now we were about to drown the tourists along the Black Sea coast and it was just the quick reaction of the already formed Ministry of Disaster Management Policy that prevented further losses.
The new law on protection against disasters was finally brought for discussion in the commissions of the National Assembly last week. The truth is that although coming late, it will solve the problems with the protection of people, environment, cultural and material valuables in case of disasters. The law regulates the relations between the institutions settling everybody's rights and obligations. Within their competence ministers are obliged to carry out protection activities in accordance with the protection plans. In case of disaster, a coordination and control staff may be established by order of the Prime Minister to the competent minister or head of department. For example, if a fire bursts out the staff should be created by the Minister of Interior, in case of epidemic - by the Minister of Healthcare, an earthquake - by the Minister of Disaster Management Policy, etc. According to the law, regional governors and mayors are respectively responsible for the management in regions and municipalities.
The new regulation creates coordination among all institutions competent in the protection of people, environment and valuables against disaster. There was no such coordination in the past legislation. The act regulates the single rescue system as organisation, coordination and direction of the units' activities in case of calamity. It aims at achieving harmony in the actions while keeping each unit part of the respective institution. Horizontal links between the institutions in charge of protective actions are established as these links are quite necessary for the effective protection.
This is the first time that the sources of financing will be regulated clearly. It helps for avoiding speculations and unscrupulous usage of funds launched for compensations and restoration in damaged areas. Regional governors are given rights to control how the resolutions of the Commission on Restoration and Support in the area are observed.
The new act imposes fines or property sanctions on those who spend financial resources given by the Commission not for the special purpose. They also need to restore the money.
Criminal decrees are to be issued by the Minister of Disaster Management Policy. They are administrative criminal orders because of failed implementation of duties under this act.
Moreover, the new text gives a clear definition of the so called volunteers. The aim is to create legal base for attracting suitable people in the protection against disaster. The mayor of the respective area will be the one to create volunteer groups and the expenses are to be paid by the municipal budget. This is how each mayor will be able to plan how many and what kind of specialists he can attract to these volunteer groups. Participants will be trained, certified and put in a register by the Minister of Disaster Management Policy.
Providing clear rules in the legislation will guarantee protection of the people, environment, cultural and material valuables in case of disaster, experts comment.
It is also positive that for the first time lawmakers try to guarantee an adequate status to the officers of the Civil Protection National Service Chief Directorate. The base for monthly remuneration of junior rescuers will be confirmed every year by Bulgaria's State Budget Act. Monthly remunerations for various posts will be raised by a factor and in accordance with the functions fulfilled. For holders of university degrees the factor will be at least 1.35 and for those who hold high school degrees - at least 1.
For those fulfilling underwater driving functions the act provides additional remuneration amounting to 10% of the minimum working salary in emergent rescuing activities for each hour under water as well as 5% of the minimum working salary in training for each hour under water.
If, despite the summer heat, the members of the National Assembly decide to hurry, people may no longer stay surprised by everything that happens to them. It may no longer be necessary, as it is tradition in Bulgaria, to search for those who are guilty for the consequences. It is high time that rules and obligations got clear to both rulers and people who sent them to their posts.