Civil defense signals
Civil defense signals are signals that should reach a large number of people as quickly as possible. In a broader sense, they can be warnings, alarms or all-clears.
There is a civil defense test alarm for the system, which regularly tests its functionality.
Warning options are important both for civil major incidents (natural disasters such as floods , incidents such as chemical or reactor accidents, NBC alarm ) and for military cases (armed attack on a state).
Nationwide warning day
On September 10, 2020 - for the first time after reunification - a nationwide test alarm will be carried out again. In future, this will take place on the second Thursday in September of each year, including all warning channels ( MoWaS , warning apps , siren signals, radio, etc.).
With the uniform nationwide warning day, the population is to be sensitized and prepared for possible danger situations such as natural or environmental disasters and major fires. The warning apps will then hit all over Germany, sirens will wail and broadcasters will interrupt their broadcasts.
Types of transmission of civil defense signals
There are several ways to broadcast civil defense signals (especially disaster warnings).
Options for large-scale disaster warnings differ in terms of speed, the achievable size of the population, failover, and fixed and variable costs. However, special attention is paid to the “wake-up effect”, i.e. the possibility of drawing the population's attention to certain media and their messages. Accordingly, new developments are such that receiving devices activate themselves in the event of a disaster.
- Signals via sirens
- A nationwide, centrally controlled siren network offers a simple and inexpensive option. The alarm via siren signals is usually faster than a warning via radio and television, can be localized more easily and also reaches people who are not currently receiving any radio media (alarm function). In the case of radio transmissions of the siren triggering, any power failures must also be taken into account and the corresponding emergency power supplies such as batteries must be provided. While Austria has a comprehensive siren network to this day, there was such a network in West Germany from the 1950s to the 1990s to notify everyone.
- Radio and television
- Already connected to the German modular warning system (MoWaS for short, formerly SatWaS) are a large number of TV and radio stations (also in connection with RDS and DAB ) and some Internet providers who can distribute the latest warnings accordingly. The wake-up effect is missing, however. In the event of a power failure, radio announcements are practically useless, as very few households are equipped with network-independent receivers (apart from car radios and smartphones with VHF receivers).
- Mass short messages
- In most countries, mobile radio technology is not designed for such capacities. Tests in Germany had shown that it took up to 24 hours to warn 50,000 residents of a city via SMS. One solution would be to use the cell broadcast of the GSM network or the service area broadcast of UMTS . With this, 80% of the population could be warned of dangers inexpensively, quickly and locally.
- Landline phone
- The greatest range can still be achieved without sirens via the telephone , which also has a wake-up effect. The fixed network has the necessary capacity to handle several thousand calls simultaneously. Installation of alarm computers in the exchanges is necessary for this. In Germany this would cost around 200 million euros. However, the number of landline connections is decreasing . It should also be taken into account that many small domestic telephone systems already require an external power supply, which means that this option may also be ruled out.
- Cellular telephones
- The technology is currently not designed for such capacities. The emergency power supply for the transmitters (radio cells), which is not always available, must also be taken into account.
- Radio clock transmitter DCF77 , radio alarm clock
- In 2003, the Federal Office of Administration, Central Office for Civil Protection, provided brief information about the research project with field protection to warn the public with the radio alarm clock. From October 13th to December 10th, 2003, 39 alarms were sent in a test with 1,000 recipients across the country. In 2007, the German Institute for Standardization was commissioned to work with industry to create a draft standard "Population warning by radio alarm using DCF77". To date, this technology has not been implemented for use by the population.
- Warning apps
- Since June 2015, the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) has been offering a warning app called NINA (short for "Emergency Information and News App"), which provides warnings in the area of civil protection both from the so-called modular warning system (MoWaS ) as well as from the German Weather Service and the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration. In contrast to Android users, some iPhone users find the fact that there is no location reference for the warning messages and the warning messages are published throughout Germany as annoying.
- The KATWARN smartphone app , which was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems and public insurers, has been available since 2012 . KATWARN obtains its information both from the German Weather Service and from the disaster control teams of the associated cities, districts and city states. About KATWARN the user only location-based warnings. The user can specify different fixed locations for which he would like to receive warnings or choose the "guardian angel function", in which his current location is constantly tracked via GPS.
- It is critical to see that there is currently no nationwide uniform warning app. While some cities, counties and countries use the NINA warning app , others rely on KATWARN . As a result, the user, if he is regularly in different places in Germany, is forced to install both apps. Furthermore, the warning network still has large gaps, as the municipalities, rural districts and federal states are not yet using warning apps across the board. LevelAlarm has been established as a uniform warning app for floods since 2015 . The level alarm system collects and standardizes water data such as water level and runoff from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol, Slovakia, Great Britain, Ireland, Slovenia and since 2019 also the USA. The warning can be set individually by the user to a definable water level limit value. If this value is reached or exceeded, warning signals are given by a push message, ring tones, vibration and flashing of the smartphone flash. The development and operation are supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism .
At the beginning of the 1950s, efforts were made in Germany to reorganize civil protection and disaster control . This also included the establishment of warning offices in the Federal Republic of Germany as well as the establishment and expansion of a comprehensive alarm system to warn of disasters . The possibility of comprehensive warning and alarming was achieved with the installation of sirens . These included the E57 siren model , but also so-called high-performance sirens that were installed in larger cities such as Saarbrücken or Kassel .
Until the end of the Cold War , the sirens were tested twice a year in a test alarm (in West German territory). This took place on a Wednesday in March and September around 10 a.m. First a one-minute continuous tone, then an air alarm or ABC alarm and finally another continuous tone was triggered.
The siren network of 80,000 sirens in Germany was heavily thinned out in 1993 for cost reasons due to the discontinuation of the warning offices of the civil protection warning service and ultimately 40,000 sirens were dismantled. The cities took over some of the sirens from the federal government and have since had to maintain the sirens themselves. In isolated cases, sirens were left to be used for alarming the fire brigade . Since then there has been no comprehensive system for alerting the population with a wake-up function. The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief is looking for a new medium for this.
Siren network available today
Today, only a few major German cities have an intact siren network made up of high-performance sirens. These include Aachen , Augsburg , Bonn , Darmstadt , Dresden , Duisburg , Düsseldorf , Erlangen , Hagen , Hamm , Hoyerswerda , Karlsruhe , Kassel , Cologne , Krefeld , Mannheim , Mainz , Moers , Norderstedt , Pforzheim , Solingen , Saarbrücken , Wiesbaden and Wuppertal . The Hanseatic City of Hamburg has a siren network specially designed to warn of storm surges .
There are still around 15,000 sirens nationwide that can be used to send a 1-minute howling sound.
Functional tests of the sirens are handled differently by the cities and municipalities; for example, tests are carried out once a year in Düsseldorf and on the second Wednesday of every quarter in Dresden.
The picture is very different in the individual counties . For example, in the Steinfurt district there is still a coherent siren network and a mobile system that is tested once a month. In Saarland there are sirens in many municipalities, which are mainly used to alert the fire brigade. The sirens are usually tested every Saturday at 12 noon. In Bavaria , siren warning systems are installed in all locations within a radius of 25 kilometers around all nuclear power plants in order to alert the population in the event of a serious incident. You will be tested at least twice a year.
In the meantime, many municipalities such as For example, the districts of Recklinghausen or Minden-Lübbecke and the city of Osnabrück have again introduced a siren system to reach citizens in the danger area with a warning. The loud and shrill sound of a siren is an effective means of clearly audible at least the existence of a danger for people in the vicinity.
Civil defense signals used
There are no longer any national siren signals since the old civil protection network was dismantled. The definition of siren signals is currently the responsibility of the disaster control authorities of the federal states.
In Germany only one disaster warning and alarm signal is used. Until around 1975 this was a two-minute signal consisting of three 12-second continuous tone with a 12-second pause, followed by a 60-second continuous tone. Since the beginning of this signal sequence resembles that of the volunteer fire brigades and mix-ups are to be avoided, a one-minute rising and falling howling sound (formerly known as an air alarm) has been used in Germany as a "warning the population" since then. The signal generally means “switch on the radio and listen to announcements”. The radio is then used to send out more precise instructions on how to behave for citizens on certain stations (usually the public service program with traffic radio or regional stations ). As the signal is not available nationwide, it sometimes has different meanings, such as B. that closed rooms are to be visited, windows and doors closed and air conditioning systems to be switched off.
As a second siren signal, a one-minute continuous tone is set up to give the all-clear, which is given after the end of the hazardous situation.
Austria has a nationwide, operational network of 8,212 sirens (as of October 6, 2018) .
Siren warning system
There are three different general signals: warning, alarm, all-clear . It is not clear from the warning and alarm signs what kind of disaster it is. This can only be learned from the special ORF news broadcast at the same time and behavioral measures that are announced via mass media (radio, television and the Internet). In the case of only local alarms, the message can also be given through loudspeaker announcements, for example by the fire brigade.
In addition, the fire brigade alarm can be given via the system. The use of the alarm signal depends on the individual fire service . If, for example, a fire brigade alerts its members mainly using radio receivers , the siren signal ( ) is rarely used, as in many cities and large towns. In many fire brigades, however, a distinction is also made between using both to alert in the event of a fire or rescuing people , whereas in technical operations only the radio pagers are used. This depends on the local alarm plans .
There is a weekly siren rehearsal (a 15-second continuous tone) with the siren rehearsal signal every Saturday around 12 noon; The different triggering routes - federal warning center ( BWZ), state warning centers (LAWZ) , district alarm and warning centers (BAWZ) or direct triggering - are tested alternately.
Since 1998, an Austria-wide siren rehearsal with all disaster signals has taken place once a year on the first Saturday in October between 12:00 and 13:00 . This will be announced in advance in the mass media. Functionality is checked on the one hand, and audibility on the other. At the same time, the aim is to raise awareness among the population. Although triggered centrally, all fire brigades are involved, which carry out the reports. Because the sirens are triggered by the individual alarm centers during the weekly rehearsal, it is not technically possible for radio technology to trigger all of them at the same time, so that the rehearsal alarm times are not uniform across Austria to the minute. In some cases, nationwide test alarms are carried out independently, as in Styria . In addition, regionally dependent tests, such as a dam warning in the Maltatal , are also carried out together with the nationwide siren sample .
Civil defense and test signals used
The siren test is only a 15-second continuous tone (a particularly short alarm tone). It takes place across Austria every Saturday at around 12:00 noon, depending on the location.
The fire brigade alarm consists of three 15-second continuous tone with two 7-second pauses in between.
Approaching danger (warning) is announced with a three-minute continuous tone. The population is asked to turn on the radio or television and to observe the instructions published there.
The signal danger (alarm) consists of a rising and falling tone lasting one minute and means immediate danger: go to protective premises (a car does not provide sufficient protection), follow the behavioral measures communicated via the media and switch on the radio.
The end of the danger (all-clear) is indicated by a one-minute continuous tone. Possible restrictions for the normal daily routine are disseminated through the media.
Other ways of alerting the civilian population
Since 2017, the Ministry of the Interior has been offering the option of individual alarms based on location or events via an installed mobile app , SMS , email or other IT options of the KATWARN Österreich / Austria system .
In Switzerland , the Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP) and the National Alarm Center (NAZ) are responsible for alerting people. It broadcasts warnings via radio, television, sirens and in the event of natural hazards via naturgefahren.ch on the Internet.
Switzerland has around 7200 civil defense sirens , 5000 of which are permanently installed (600 of which are also used for water alarms) and 2200 can be attached to vehicles.
The sirens are triggered by the cantonal or local authorities. The stationary sirens can be activated remotely. The sirens are tested every year on the first Wednesday in February between 1.30 p.m. and 3 p.m. with the "general alarm" signal.
Since April 1, 2004, there have only been two alarm signals in Switzerland: the general alarm and the water alarm . The earlier characters C-alarm and radiation alarm have been removed. In addition, alerting the fire brigades ( Cis-Gis signal) with civil defense sirens is no longer permitted.
- General alarm
- Regular ascending and descending tone of the sirens lasting one minute. After an interruption of two minutes, the alarm is repeated. When the general alarm sounds, the population should turn on the radio and follow the instructions of the authorities.
- Water alarm
- The water alarm sounds only in endangered areas below dams . It consists of twelve deep continuous tones of 20 seconds each at 10-second intervals. When the water alarm sounds, the population should leave the endangered area, then turn on the radio and follow the instructions of the authorities.
The official warnings are distributed via the TV and radio programs of SRG SSR . This has an emergency disposition ( Information Catastrophe Alarme Radio Organization , ICARO) and several protected radio transmission systems with increased transmission power, whose signals can also be received in the event of a shelter being occupied.
With the Polyalert project of the BABS, the sirens and their controls were renewed in 2015. It also enables alarms to be triggered via calls and short messages to mobile phone users in the danger zone, via loudspeakers in public transport and via computer screens in companies.
There are 338 sirens nationwide in Luxembourg , which can be triggered individually, per location, municipality, region or nationwide. Outside the city of Luxembourg, a siren test is carried out every first Monday of the month at 12:00.
This information can be found on the inside cover of the Luxembourg telephone books.
The siren network in Denmark consists of 1078 sirens that can warn about 80% of the population. They are tested silently every night. A test with signal takes place every first Wednesday in May at 12:00.
There are also different meanings for signals that sound the same within the EU. For example, the increasing and decreasing howling tone is a pre-alarm for one minute in Luxembourg, and the main alarm in Austria and Switzerland in the event of acute danger. In 1999, the German Federal Office for Civil Protection recommended a “study into the development of a uniform siren signal and related recommendations for behavior”.
In English, the terms Reverse 112 or Public Warning Service (PWS) are also used for civil defense signals, especially those that are sent to cell phones.
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