Bonn (dpa) – Practical private precautionary measures in the event of a crisis have become significantly more important in Germany due to the corona pandemic – even beyond the panic purchase of toilet paper.
“I believe the pandemic has increased the understanding of civil defense and self-defense,” said the new president of the Federal Bureau of Civil Protection and Disaster Response (BBK), Armin Schuster, of the German news agency.
Former Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière (CDU) once received much ridicule when he pointed out the need to keep a small supply of water, food, bandages and certain other goods in an emergency. “Today, we are taken a lot more seriously with our recommendations – because of Covid-19 and quarantine experiences,” added Schuster. The BBK is currently registering a keen interest in its emergency guidelines, the Bonn Authority president reported. Scenarios such as power outages are conceivable in many crisis situations. You have to be prepared for that – with a battery-powered radio, for example, Schuster said.
When the then Minister of the Interior, De Maizière, presented a concept for civil protection in 2016 that also included proposals for private provision, there was talk of ‘panic-mongering’ in the public debate. However, a survey also found that at that time nearly a third of citizens had already stockpiled before a crisis.
The BBK guide to disasters such as floods, power outages or storms states, “Your goal should be to survive 10 days without running errands.” For this, there must be 20 liters of water and four kilos of vegetables and legumes per person at home. Candles, matches, batteries and a flashlight are just as good on the checklist as trash bags and toilet paper. At the start of the corona pandemic in the spring of 2020, toilet paper and disinfectants in particular were temporarily scarce in German supermarkets. In some cases, such products were sold with the indication that each customer could only purchase quantities that are normal for a household.
In Germany, the only task of the federal government is to protect the population against the threat of war. The federal states, on the other hand, are responsible for protection against major accidents and disasters in peacetime. Some politicians are now wondering whether this principle still fits in times of threat from cyber attacks. “The separate responsibilities of the federal government for civil protection and the federal states for disaster relief make effective protection of the population more difficult,” the federal court said in 2013.
At the start of the corona vaccinations, it was also shown that the activities of the actors involved do not always mesh like cogs – for example, when the Berlin mayor Michael Müller (SPD) complains about the lack of reliability in the delivery of vaccines to the vaccination centers.
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) entrusted the management of the BBK to the Bundestag CDU member and former federal police officer Schuster last fall. Schuster’s predecessor, long-time President Christoph Unger, was not only blamed for the failed National Warning Day in September. There has also been criticism of the office’s lack of public visibility and the overly timid role the BBK played in networking the state authorities responsible for peacetime disaster management.
For example, in 2012 the BBK ran a risk analysis due to a Sars virus pandemic. However, no corresponding conclusions were drawn with the responsible government authorities – for example, large stocks of protective suits and masks were put on.
The new head of the office wants the BBK to take on a “more confident coordinating role” in the future. This requires “mutual cooperation with the federal states, the aid organizations, the THW and the Bundeswehr,” said Schuster. Responsibility issues would only arise if this partnership worked well.
An example of how he understands the task of the Bonn Authority is a forum organized by the BBK, in which vaccination center operators from all over Germany are exchanged views with experts. Because so far each federal state has planned and operated essentially on its own. The way citizens get their vaccination appointment also varies from country to country. “Running a vaccination center with completely new vaccines presents enormous challenges for all of us,” says Schuster.
According to him, the question of how the drinking water supply, the electricity grid and hospitals continue to function under extreme conditions is also high on the government’s agenda. This concerns, among other things, the promotion of drinking water emergency wells and emergency power generators in the drinking water supply.