In the event of severe storms, floods, a chemical accident or a dangerous major fire, the population has also been warned by cell broadcast since February 23 of this year. All cell phones and smartphones logged into the affected radio cells receive alerts with a short message and a beep. “With no other warning channel can we reach more people directly,” writes the responsible Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK). Nevertheless, sirens continue to wail in some places, the police drive through the town with loudspeaker trucks and there are warnings via app or on the radio. Cell broadcast is particularly important when, for example, the power has failed and sirens can no longer be switched on. The process has been around in other countries for some time:
The only prerequisite is that the cell phone is switched on and not running in flight mode. However, the warning messages can only be received on cell phones and smartphones whose software is up to date. You can find out whether older devices are suitable for Cell Broadcast on the website of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance.
In the event of a major disaster, local disaster control – for example, the rescue control center – selects areas where people need to be warned. Unlike the warning apps Nina or Katwarn, no app needs to be downloaded for this. Cell-Broadcast messages also contain a link to the Federal Warning Portal (https://warnung.bund.de), where the detailed warning text can be found.
The consumer advice center advises users to make sure that the warning message actually comes from an authority and that it is not an attempted scam. All warnings come from official authorities that are also named in the message and are no longer than 500 characters. Unlike an SMS, there is no way to reply.
Further information, including how to activate or deactivate messages, can be found on the website of the consumer advice center, for example: https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/wissen/digitale-welt/mobilfunk-und-festnetz/cell-broadcast-neues-warnsystem-fuer-katastrophen-in-deutschland-77578.
Auf Rathäusern und Bürgerämtern finden sich heute noch Sirenen. Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL / Martin Klaus.