The Direction générale de la sécurité civile et de la gestion des crises (General directorate for civil defence and crisis management) is a civil defence agency of the French Government. It operates for the French Ministry of the Interior, and employs some 2,500 civilian and military personnel over 60 sites. Known as the Protection Civile until 1976, the Sécurité Civile is split into several branches:
Sécurité Civile aircraft operate for the Rescue operation and civil-military cooperation branch under the Groupement des Moyens Aériens Sécurité Civile (Aerial Group). Aircraft carry the title SECURITE CIVILE on the fuselage sides, together with the international civil defence symbol. The aircraft are divided into the Groupement des Helicopteres de la Securite Civile (Helicopter Group) and the Groupement des Avions Bombardiers d'Eau (Water Bomber Group).
The Sécurité Civile helicopter group has 23 helicopter bases in mainland France and its overseas territories. It has a fleet of 35 helicopters and employs 230 pilots and flight engineers and 50 ground engineers. Over its 50 years of activity, the helicopter group has an impressive track record, with 480,000 flight hours, 250,000 rescue missions and 225,000 people rescued. Helicopter group aircraft use the callsign "DRAGON", followed by the number of the département in which their base is located.
Sécurité Civile currently operates 35 EC-145 helicopters that were delivered between 2002 and 2005. The fleet has accumulated over 100,000 flight hours. The EC-145 fleet is used for search and rescue, fire fighting, emergency medical services (EMS), surveillance and law enforcement. EC-145s are deployed on 22 Sécurité Civile bases in France and the French Overseas Territories. An order has been placed for a further five helicopters, to be delivered from January 2009. This will enable the phasing out of the six remaining Alouette III helicopters. The EC 145 carries out an average 10,000 rescue missions each year, representing over 13,300 flight hours.
Helicopter group bases of operation are located at:.
The Echelon Central (command centre), and helicopter maintenance base is located in Nîmes.
Helicopters are detached to several other bases seasonally. In summer, aircraft are detached to Courchevel, Alpes d'Huez, Gavarnie, Lacanau, and Chamonix. In winter, aircraft are detached to Chamonix and Alpes d'Huez.
12 Bombardier 415s are currently operated by the Sécurité Civile, each able to drop 6,137 l (1,350 imp gal; 1,621 US gal). France was the first nation to commit to the CL-415 "Superscoop" in 1992, so that it could phase out its Canadair CL-215s.
Two pre-owned Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s, acquired from Scandinavian Airlines System, were modified by Cascade Aerospace of Abbotsford, British Columbia, for the Sécurité Civile to act as fire-fighting water bombers in fire season and as transport aircraft off season. This aircraft is designated the Q400-MR (Multi Role). The aircraft can be reconfigured into the passenger, cargo or aerial fire control role in under three hours and can drop 10,000 L (2,200 imp gal; 2,600 US gal) in the tanker role. 6 more ordered in 2017 for 365MEUR, 2 delivered by 2020.
Seven Conair Turbo Firecats are in operation. The Turbo Firecat is a turboprop conversion of the Grumman S-2 Tracker, carried out by Conair, Canada. The first delivery to the Sécurité Civile was in August 1988. Fleet Grounded by september 2019.
All fixed-wing aircraft are based at Garons Provence Airport.
307 Sécurité Civile bomb disposal experts are based at 20 bomb disposal units, including 2 overseas units (Guadeloupe and French Guiana). They are responsible for the detection, removal, disposal or destruction of suspicious objects. They also provide assistance during official travel or large demonstrations and de-arm and destroy unexploded ammunition still present from the two world wars.
In 2004, 440 tonnes (430 long tons; 490 short tons) of munitions was disposed of, whilst 43 bomb disposal experts were deployed on the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings, 17 on the 60th anniversary of the landing in Provence and 16 during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Lourdes.