Update: Germany launches first ‘catastrophe awareness warning day’

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

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.”

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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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