Legal measures

EU Directive 2018/1972 of the European Parliament and Council of December 11, 2018, which established the European Electronic Communications Code, introduced the Public Alert System. Specifically, the Directive stipulated that "by June 21, 2022, Member States shall ensure that when public alert systems are established in case of imminent or ongoing major emergencies and disasters, providers of number-based mobile interpersonal communication services transmit public alerts to affected end-users."

In Italy, the public alert system was first introduced by Decree Law No. 32 of April 18, 2019, with the aim of ensuring the protection of human life through mobile communication services aimed at users affected by serious emergencies, imminent or ongoing disasters. The regulation also provides for the introduction of the IT-alert service through which to send messages, regarding risk scenarios, the organization of civil protection services and self-protection measures. The method foreseen is a cell broadcast system that allows message broadcasting to all devices in a given geographical area covered by mobile radio cells.

Decree No. 110 of the Prime Minister of June 19, 2020 regulated the mode of activation of the IT-alert system and defined the technical-operational aspects of the service. The decree also established the Technical Committee, which is responsible for monitoring and updating the way the service operates. It was also established that the IT-alert service would enter an experimental phase on October 1, 2020. From this date, all operators should have maintained technological apparatuses (cell broadcast centers) at their premises to receive and transfer messages to all mobile phones in the specified areas.

Legislative Decree No. 207 of 8 November 2021, implementing EU Directive 2018/1972, provides that the Italian public alert system and the IT-alert service are coincident and the situations where IT-alert can be activated are imminent and ongoing major emergencies and catastrophes that may affect our country , which include Civil Protection events, as defined by the 2018 Civil Protection Code. With the adoption of Legislative Decree 207/2021, the consistency of the Italian system with European indications has therefore been addressed and resolved.

The Directive of the President of the Council of Ministers of October 23, 2020, updated by the Directive of the Minister for Civil Protection and Marine Policies of February 7, 2023 on "Civil Protection Alerting and the IT-Alert public alert system", regulated the use of the IT-Alert public alert system with regard to civil protection events and provided for an extension of the trial period until February 13, 2024.

Specifically, the Directive provided that, in certain specific cases of major emergencies and imminent or ongoing catastrophic events that could become national emergencies within the meaning of the Civil Protection Code, the National Service of Civil Protection should integrate the methods of information and communication already provided for by the regulations in force with the IT-Alert system to inform the population in order to favour the adoption of self-protection measures in relation to the specific type of risk and the reference context.

The Directive provided, then, that during the period of testing, for each type of risk, operational indications should be prepared and adopted, and shared between the various components of the National Civil Protection Service, containing, for each risk scenario envisaged, the objectives, methods of transmission, area to alert and content of the IT-Alert message.

It is also defined that, in order to technically assess the results of the experimentation and the possibility of the system becoming operational, the Civil Protection Department shall proceed to a comparison with the territorial bodies involved in the specific activity, with phone operators, and with the Commission for the forecast and prevention of major risks sector competent for the type of risk subject to the experimentation phase implemented.

Finally, the Directive provides for both the possibility of progressively extending the use of the IT-Alert system also to other types of serious emergencies and catastrophes imminent or in progress, and the fact that the possible use of IT-Alert for purposes other than those of Civil Protection must be disciplined with specific provisions by the competent administrations.