'No sirens since Cold War': Catastrophe awareness day flop embarrasses German government

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'No sirens since Cold War': Catastrophe awareness day flop embarrasses German government
Photo: DPA

Germany’s first nationwide 'catastrophe awareness day' was described as “a fiasco”, after cities reported having no sirens, while too many digital warnings sent at once led to a system meltdown.


The Interior Ministry had to admit that the day, which is supposed to turn into an annual event, was “a failure".

At 11am alarms were supposed to go off across the country, while people should have been warned via warning apps.

But it soon became apparent that many parts of the country no longer have sirens.

A fire department spokesperson explained for Munich that there had been no sirens in the state capital for many years. They had been gradually dismantled after the end of the Cold War, he explained. 

In many parts of the country, the warnings passed completely unnoticed.

Meanwhile, the message from the warning apps NINA and KATWARN arrived on smartphones after a half-hour delay.


The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) in Bonn explained the breakdown was caused by agencies simultaneously triggering a large number of warning messages. 

"Initial analyses have shown that at 11am not only was the warning triggered centrally, but many other connected control centres also triggered warnings independently, resulting in an overload of the system," said BBK head Christoph Unger.

The flop was met with mockery on social media. The association of deaf people jokingly tweeted: "Well, we didn't hear anything.”

READ ALSO: Germany launches first 'catastrophe awareness day'


The Interior Ministry insists lessons will be learned.

"Insights have been gained and will be taken into account in the further development of the warning system," it stated.

Deputy chairman of the Free Democrats (FDP), Michael Theurer, called the day a "fiasco".

"In the field of disaster and civil protection there is an urgent need for action throughout Germany," said Theurer.

The Federal Government must now come to terms with the failure of the various systems and present concrete solutions, he demanded.

The so-called 'warning day', which in future is to take place every year on the second Thursday in September, is intended to prepare for dangerous situations such as floods, chemical accidents or even terrorist attacks. 

All existing warning devices such as warning apps, radio and television, digital billboards, sirens and loudspeaker vehicles were supposed to be integrated.


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