Danish Emergency Management Presentation to National Capital Wing


Lt Col Per Rasmussen of the Danish Ministry of Defence speaks with Lt Col JD Ellis of the National Capital Wing. Photo by 2d Lt Kevin Geiss.

The National Capital (NatCap) Wing held its annual conference on 17 March at the Air National Guard Readiness Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md.  About 100 members (including more than 20 cadets) of NatCap attended this year’s conference.

CAP volunteer officers provided presentations on a number of topics including professional development, aircraft safety, chaplain’s affairs, communications equipment, and cadet programs.  These topics were available to cadets and volunteer officers in parallel sessions throughout the day.

A special guest, Lt Col Per Rasmussen, gave one of the feature presentations.  Lt Col Rasmussen serves as the Assistant Defense, Military, Naval, and Air Attaché for the Embassy of Denmark in Washington, D.C.  His presentation focused on the Danish Home Guard and the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), both of which are part of the Department of Emergency Planning in the Danish Ministry of Defence.

 “Meeting people you like and working alongside others with whom you have something in common – that keeps people engaged”

The Danish Home Guard is comparable to the National Guard in the United States.  The Home Guard includes about 50,000 volunteers – a size comparable to CAP in the United States – and integrates army, navy, air force, and infrastructure specific elements for a coordinated response to a variety of operations.

The Home Guard provides Danish citizens an opportunity to participate in the defense and support of their homeland.  Among their many activities, the Home Guard may be activated to provide assistance to the police during national disasters or search and rescue operations.

A key characteristic of the Home Guard is the local presence of volunteers throughout the nation.  This distributed force contributes to the combined preparedness of their society.  The infrastructure element of the Home Guard assists in protection of important structures, such as railroads, electric power grids, and telephone networks.

Home Guard volunteers display a high degree of dedication and pride in their service.  Lt Col Rasmussen indicated that it is not uncommon for an individual that is a private pilot to fly unreimbursed missions in his or her own Cessna 172 in support of Home Guard activities.

Col Richard Cooper, commander of NatCap Wing, was in attendance and said, “I liked how the colonel described the integration of volunteers with the military to support civilian search and rescue operations.”

Lt Col Rasmussen summarized one of the reasons Danish citizens continue to volunteer their time without pay to be a part of national emergency response activities.  “Meeting people you like and working alongside others with whom you have something in common – that keeps people engaged,” he said.  Those of us in CAP can certainly relate to that.

“Prevention is a part of all of our planning.  It is better to prevent the fire than to have to respond to it,” said Lt Col Rasmussen.


Lt Col Per Rasmussen gives a presentation to the National Capital Wing on emergency management in the country of Denmark. Photo by 2d Lt Kevin Geiss.

Among its many missions, the DEMA and its over 1500 personnel manage the Danish National Fire and Rescue Service.  Full-time employees are integrated with volunteers to assist local fire and rescue services, police and other authorities.  The DEMA staff is of particular importance in the case of major or prolonged incidents that require substantial manpower or specialized equipment.

The DEMA responds to natural or man-made disasters, whether in the homeland or in an international setting.  The DEMA has been involved in 75 major operations since the year 2000 to include foreign humanitarian support.

Lt Col Rasmussen provided some perspective on the scale of emergency management challenges in Denmark.  The country of Denmark is about the size of the state of Maryland in both land area and population (just over 5.5 million people).  Emergency preparedness and planning are major responsibilities of DEMA, which leads national campaigns to inform Danish citizens about certain types of emergencies. “Prevention is a part of all of our planning.  It is better to prevent the fire than to have to respond to it,” said Lt Col Rasmussen.

After hearing this presentation, CAP volunteer officer Mike Strickland of the Fairfax Composite Squadron said, “I found it interesting to see the differences in what a smaller country has done to incorporate their emergency preparedness functions with their local governmental authorities compared to a large country like ours that addresses many similar emergency and disaster situations.”


For more about the Danish Department of Emergency Planning, please visit their website –