After the devastating storm in West Germany, cooperation between federal, state and local governments in disaster relief needs to be improved. However, there is no sign of a majority for a new central leadership role for the federal government. In the opinion of Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the federal government should not take responsibility for disaster relief. The decisions should still be made locally, interfering with the powers of the states and municipalities would be the wrong way, the CSU politician said in the Bundestag on Monday at a special meeting of the Interior Commission. Flooding in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia last week killed at least 179 people, and dozens are still missing. There was criticism from meteorologists, among others, because their warnings had not been passed on to the population in time.
The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief (BBK), as the competence center of the federal and state governments, should only play a more coordinating role in the future, Seehofer emphasizes. The conference of interior ministers of the federal and state governments agreed on this before the floods in West Germany.
FDP deputy parliamentary group Michael Theurer called for a reform of financial relations between federal, state and local governments. Cities and towns need to be strengthened so that they can carry out their duties accordingly, Theurer said. The federal government is currently supporting the states in setting up and repairing warning sirens.
The responsibility, as it has been arranged from the bottom up until now, is correct, according to the CDU member of the Bundestag Albert Weiler. As honorary mayor of the Thuringian municipality of Milda, he is responsible for disaster relief. “The district administrator or mayor knows the local situation best,” Weiler says. The federal states and municipalities must make use of the free civil protection courses offered by the BBK Academy; Ideally, participation should even be mandatory.
According to reports, it is certain that the population will be warned by cell broadcasting in the future. Similar to an SMS, a message is sent to mobile phone users – to all recipients currently in the respective radio cell. Before the floods caused by heavy rainfall, there was likely resistance in the federal government. Seehofer confirmed that “not everyone has always been enthusiastic about the idea in recent months”. “But I decided that we would do it, there is absolutely no reasonable argument against it,” he added.
BBK chairman Armin Schuster had a feasibility study carried out by cell broadcasting in the spring. The head of the authority, which is subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior, was probably also persuading other departments, including the Ministry of Economy.
Telekom was open to building the system last week. Vodafone already has additional cell-broadcast warning systems in place for authorities in several countries, such as Italy and Great Britain, and could also offer these in Germany if the authorities place an order, a company spokesperson said. (dpa)