Consequences of the flood disaster in Ahrweiler: Cell broadcast should help save lives
Photo: Boris Roessler / dpa
In the event of a possible disaster, the population should in future be warned via mass messages to all smartphones and cell phones.
On Friday, a good four months after the flood disaster, which mainly hit western Germany, the Federal Council approved a government ordinance on what is known as cell broadcast.
The system enables the authorities to send a warning to all mobile phone users who are currently in a certain area. The messages arrive even when people don't have smartphones, but classic cell phones or have a foreign cell phone number. This system is already used in many European countries - for example to warn of forest fires. The messages can be received without having to download an app or register with a service. They reach the recipient even when idle mode is activated.
The legal basis for the regulation is a change in the Telecommunications Act.
It provides for new statutory obligations for mobile network operators.
The requirements for the introduction of cell broadcast by the mobile network operators and the connection to the federal modular warning system are currently being defined by the Federal Network Agency.
It shouldn't start until the end of 2022
According to the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), the procedure could be used from the end of 2022.
The cost of the new system was estimated at around 40 million euros in August.
Each year, up to one million euros is then expected for maintenance and operation per mobile network operator.
The federal government bears these costs.
After heavy rain, numerous German towns were flooded in mid-July.
183 people died, most of them in Rhineland-Palatinate.
It later emerged that warnings of the disaster were too late or insufficiently urgent in some affected communities.
The BBK relies on a “warning mix” that previously included sirens, announcements on the radio, warnings via app and on announcement boards.
However, the responsibility for disaster control in peacetime does not lie with the federal government, but with the federal states.
mbö / dpa / AFP