Update: Germany launches first ‘catastrophe awareness warning day’

On Thursday morning you might have heard a loud siren or had your radio broadcaster interrupted. Or you might have got a notification on your phone. Don’t be alarmed. It’s just Germany’s first “Warn Day.”

Update: Germany launches first 'catastrophe awareness warning day'
Photo: DPA

Throughout the country, local catastrophe warning signals were given a dry run on Thursday at 11am in order to increase public awareness about how they work.

The project, named Warntag (warn day) has been initiated by the federal government and will be carried out on the second Thursday of September, annually.

“When the sirens start wailing and your radio broadcast is interrupted on September 10th, don’t be scared,” said deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer before the event took place. “This is a practice exercise.”

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“During catastrophes like flooding, storms and fires a punctual warning can save lives,” she said. “Whoever has been warned early enough can bring themselves, family and friends into safety.”

The warning signals come in several forms, some more modern than others. Sirens on the top of town halls wailed, and digital advertising billboards were also to issue a warning.

Meanwhile people who have downloaded the government’s NINA warning app were to get a push notification. NINA stands for Notfall-Informations-und-Nachrichten-App (emergency information and news app).

The NINA warning-app. Photo: DPA

The warning systems are run by the federal states and thus vary slightly from state to state. Berlin for instance does not have sirens. In the capital, the warning was to be issued via television and radio.

Warnings came through with guidelines for how one should behave in the circumstances. However no one was expected to act upon the guidelines. An all-clear signal was given at 11.20am.

'Not about stirring up fear'

The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief (BBK) in Bonn said one of the main aims was so that people get familiar with the procedures so that they know the warning signals if a real life emergency happens.

“It is not about stirring up fear and hysteria,” said BBK President Christoph Unger. “That would be counterproductive.”

But he said people in Germany are not familiar with warning signals – and that carries risks with it.

“Our goal above all is that people think about the topic,” Unger told DPA.

Aid workers in Germany were asked to inform refugees who have fled from countries affected by war like Syria, about the campaign in advance. There are concerns that sirens could evoke traumatic memories.

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.