How successful was Germany's latest 'Warning Day'?
For Germany's second emergency 'Warning Day' Thursday, all cell phones were set to sound off at 11am, but many stayed silent. Here's the verdict from the country's latest attempt to check its emergency systems.
Using so-called cell broadcast technology for the first time, all cell phone users in Germany with a German phone number were to receive a blaring emergency notification for the second Warntag (warning day). This was to test how well they would be alerted to an actual urgent situation, such as flash flooding or a blackout.
The technology sends out alerts regardless of the phone provider or if a person is signed up for them. Even if their phone is switched to silent mode, phone users receive a loud buzzing notification that's hard to ignore.
But on Thursday at 11 am that was not the case for everyone.
According to initial information from the BKK, many Telekom customers in particular did not receive the warnings.
Another warning day is already planned for September of next year, in what will now be an annual test.
Deactivated test warnings in the phones' system settings could also be a reason for the phones remaining silent. Many older models, such as the iPhone 6 or devices with Android 10, are also unable to use cell broadcast.
But the day was still deemed a "success", according to BKK President Ralph Tiesler in a statement.
"According to preliminary findings, the nationwide Warning Day 2022 was a success!" said Tiesler. "The interaction of the individual systems has worked and people have become aware of the important topic of warnings. It is still too early for conclusive results.
"We will now evaluate the feedback and thus be able to further optimize the systems. There's still room for improvement."
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) called the test "an important step" in improving how well people in Germany are protected in an emergency.
People around Germany can also chime in with how well the test worked - or didn't - using an official survey: https://warntag-umfrage.de/
Even the warning apps Katwarn or NINA didn't show an alert for all users, or only did 20 minutes past the 11am deadline.
Around Germany sirens sounded off, billboards flashed warnings at train stations and, in some communities, emergency vehicles drove through the streets broadcasting the test warning.
But some cities - including larger ones like Berlin - stayed particularly silent as they are not yet connected to a Modular Warning System.
🇩🇪 Es ist so weit! Today Germany is testing its alarm system nationwide.— Emmanuelle Chaze (@EmmanuelleChaze) December 8, 2022
Alerts are also broadcast on TV, radio, billboards, warning apps & directly onto phones.
Why no sirens in Berlin ➡️ They haven't yet been connected to the modular warning system.#Warntag2022 #warntag pic.twitter.com/47ZOLFDhCl
Berlin was also set to have 400 sirens installed by the end of 2022, although only 20 of them had been installed by August, according to the Tagesspiegel.
The importance of reliable warning systems was highlighted by the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in July 2021, when people were not informed in time of the impending danger. Afterwards, a broad debate arose on how this could be improved.
Amid an energy crisis and war within Europe, many people are also hypervigilant about what Germany would do in the event of a wide-reaching emergency.
For previous emergencies, local authorities have relied upon sirens, loudspeaker announcements or radio and TV bulletins to warn residents of acute danger or issue evacuation orders.
There are also smartphone apps to keep users up to date on extreme weather in their area.
But Bild newspaper condemned the "failure" to take early action during the mass flooding in 2021.
"The sirens stayed quiet in plenty of places, very few alerts were issued," it wrote, labelling the deadly flooding that followed "a disaster for civil protection, one of the state's most essential jobs".
The first countywide Warning Day took place in September 2020, without cell broadcast notifications, and was widely considered an abject failure. In the aftermath of the test, authorities were criticised for failing to learn from the issues they had experienced in time for the floods in 2021.