The nationwide warning day will take place on Thursday, December 8, 2022. This is an exercise. But what does the coordination actually look like in an emergency: who warns whom and when? You can find answers to important questions about warnings about disasters in Germany here.
If a catastrophe happens in Germany: how do you warn about it?
Which institution has to officially warn, that is in Germany in the Civil Defense and Disaster Relief Act (ZSKG) regulated. “Depending on the type of danger, these are different authorities. In some events, several authorities issue warnings and hazard information at the same time, for example during evacuations,” informs the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK).
Such official warnings always state which institution is the publisher of the information. In this way, legitimate information can be distinguished from false information.
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In order to be able to warn of dangers particularly quickly, the federal government, states, many authorities and many control centers of fire brigades and police use the satellite-based modular warning system (MoWaS).
The use of the system is new in Germany cell broadcast. Warning messages can be sent to smartphones and a loud signal tone can be triggered from the device. On December 8th cell broadcast will be tested nationwide for the first time. The system is scheduled to go into regular operation from spring 2023.
What is MoWaS and how does it work?
Authorities and institutions should be able to use the federal modular warning system (MoWaS) to warn of all kinds of disasters quickly and efficiently. “The aim of MoWaS is to trigger all warning devices and warning multipliers in one’s own area of responsibility at the push of a button”, explains the BKK. Warning devices are, for example, warning apps or radio stations. The warning multipliers include media companies and Deutsche Bahn.
The MoWaS transmits warnings via satellite and also via cable on land. If there is a power or internet failure, the system usually still works. There are more than 100 transmitting and receiving stations distributed in Germany. According to the BKK, the MoWaS can be used by the federal, state and local authorities.
Texts for numerous catastrophe scenarios are already stored in the MoWaS. If an event occurs, nobody has to work out the right wording first, but can issue the warning immediately – at the push of a button to various addressees such as radio stations, warning apps or local newspapers. This saves time in an emergency. In addition, parallel to the warning, instructions on how to behave can be forwarded to the population.
Warn faster in case of disasters: what is cell broadcast?
With cell broadcast technology, a new warning system for disasters is to be introduced in Germany. A nationwide test is planned for December. But how does Cell Broadcast work and what do you have to consider? The most important questions and answers on the topic.
Who warns the population?
The Bund: Various authorities are warning on behalf of the federal government. The German Weather Service (DWD), for example, is responsible for providing the general public and the regional emergency services, district administrators and mayors with important information on the current weather situation. The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) keeps an eye on cyber attacks, viruses and Trojans. You can find out which official warnings currently apply in the areas of civil protection, weather and flooding on the website www.warning.bund.de check.
The federal states: There is at least one station of the modular warning system in every federal state. In addition, the federal states support their cities and districts if they cannot cope with the effects of a hazard on their own, for example after an earthquake. The countries can also issue official warnings.
The counties: Districts or communities can also issue warnings – also via MoWaS, provided they have access. In addition to the 100 MoWaS transmitting and receiving stations distributed throughout Germany, around 250 other locations have access to the system via the Internet.
The fire department: If a danger, such as a fire, affects a larger group of people, fire brigades warn them via their control centers. Exactly which channels a fire brigade uses to warn – such as a message to the press or crossing the affected areas with loudspeaker vans – depends on how the fire brigade is equipped with technology and personnel on site.
The police: The police issue warnings whenever public safety is at risk. Examples of this are accidents and road closures, bomb finds or acts of violence involving fugitives.
The flood center: There are flood notification services in every federal state. If the level rises dangerously high, an official warning follows. You can see how things are currently in Germany when it comes to flooding online on the transnational flood portal (LHP) check.
How do the authorities spread their official warnings in an emergency?
The following channels through which institutions can pass on warnings to the population, calls the BKK.
- radio and television
- speaker truck
- Local newspaper or radio station websites
- warning apps
- social media
- Digital billboards
- Go door to door
It should be borne in mind that all of the distribution channels and measures mentioned are rarely used at the same time and not all channels are available everywhere.
What other warning apps are there?
“NINA” is the name of the federal government’s official warning app. The abbreviation stands for “emergency information and message app”. According to the BKK, anyone who uses them receives “important warnings from civil protection for various dangerous situations”. These include major fires, floods and weather warnings. In the app you can set the district, community or area in which you want to be warned.
The warning apps are particularly well known in Germany “BIWAPP” and “KATWARN”. In contrast to “NINA”, these two programs are not federal apps. But they also access the official warnings and spread them further. There are also numerous other private providers of warning apps.
Warning also in case of power failure?
In order to reach as many people as possible, there is a wide range of warning devices. This selection is also necessary if there is a power or internet failure. In the event of a power failure, some battery-powered radios can be used. Broadcasters in particular can use emergency power generators in an emergency, so that they can send warnings even if the power fails. In fact, there are also sirens that wail without electricity – be it battery operated or by a hand crank. In this way, people can also be warned if the electricity or even the Internet fails.
When the sirens go off: how to behave in an emergency
December 8th is a nationwide warning day. On this day, all means available to warn the population of a danger are tested. Read here how to behave in an emergency.
What does which alarm sound mean?
In order to be able to warn people in the event of danger, sirens still play an important role today as a warning device. After all, this warning device is most likely to be noticed – even if the television and radio are off and the smartphone is lying on the desk without a battery. There are different alarm tones to warn the population. Two of them should be known to people. The BBK explains that sirens emit a steadily rising and falling howl when there is danger. People who hear this sound should definitely get information about the existing danger – for example via the warning apps or local radio stations.
A one-minute continuous tone, on the other hand, indicates the all-clear about the danger. If you hear a one-minute continuous tone with a two-time break, you don’t need to worry. This signal is intended for calling firefighters to action.