Berlin (dpa) – After the devastating flood disaster, the debate over possible omissions and better early warning systems has accelerated. During her second visit to the flood plains, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) also questioned alternative warning tools.
“Maybe the good old siren is more useful than you thought,” Merkel said in Bad Münstereifel, which was badly damaged by the storm. It is now being analyzed what exactly worked and what did not work with disaster management and the early warning systems. In the debate, however, the following should not be forgotten: “This is a flood that has not happened for a long time.”
Laschet was also positive about the importance of alarm sirens. They were neglected for a long time because it was thought that they were no longer needed, because there was no longer a threat of war, according to the CDU leader and candidate chancellor of the Union. Now everyone notices “how vulnerable society is if electricity is suddenly no longer available”.
Future SMS alerts?
Earlier, Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer demanded that those affected be warned by text message in the future. “I am in favor of sending these push messages to citizens via the mobile phone providers. But that has always failed because the political will was lacking in some places,” the CSU politician said in the political talk “Bild live”.
There are currently no nationwide alert texts in Germany, in other countries such as the US they are common.
FDP boss Christian Lindner also spoke out in favor of texting warnings. “In the future, we will face many of the impacts of global climate change – and we need to prepare for them. That includes a low-threshold and digital early warning system,” Lindner told the Funke media group newspapers. The mobile infrastructure allows SMS alerts to be easily implemented on any mobile phone in a hazardous area.”
Alert apps are not enough
Last week, people in the affected areas were warned of thunderstorms through warning apps such as Nina or Katwarn. However, these systems are not sufficient, criticizes the Rhineland-Palatinate European parliamentarian Jutta Paulus (Greens). These warning apps only reached ten percent of the population, according to the politician from the German news agency.
Push services within the meaning of the “EU Alert” directive of 2018 are needed, with which all mobile phone subscribers can be automatically reached with public alerts. Sirens could therefore reach those who do not have a smartphone. Paulus called on the federal government to swiftly implement the EU directive on civil protection in the event of disasters.
“I can’t say it was inevitable that we would have nearly 200 deaths in this disaster,” said Paul. “Push messages on smartphones are very actively used for public alerts in other countries.” Germany failed to oblige mobile telephony providers to set up such “cell broadcast” systems.
“What we also need is better coordination and interconnection,” said the MEP. The timely and geographically very accurate warning from the European Flood Warning System (EFAS) had arrived in the districts and municipalities, but its full scope was not observed.
Criticism of Premature Assignment of Debt
Meanwhile, politicians and associations warned against reaching an agreement or blaming the blame too early.
It is now important to first analyze the events surrounding the current flood disaster in detail to see if and where processes have not worked, said CDU domestic politician Mathias Middelberg of the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung” (NOZ). This is especially true at the level of the federal states, because they are primarily responsible for disaster relief. He expressly warned against premature accusations or reform proposals.
The chairman of the Federal Armed Forces, André Wüstner, warned against starting the debate on the revaluation too early. It is now primarily to help the local population with all their might and then “work up where the federal, state and local authorities can improve civil protection,” said Wüstner of the “Heilbronner Voice”.
Recently, there has been massive criticism of Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), who has been assigned the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief (BBK). Warnings from the meteorologists would have reached the local population too late. Seehofer rejected this. “I don’t rule out that we need to improve one or the other.” But the warning messages would have worked without any technical problem, Seehofer said.
Jung: “Crystal clear analysis” needed
The federal states are responsible for disaster relief in Germany. The federal government has no direct responsibilities here. In the event of natural disasters and particularly serious accidents, however, the federal states can call in the assistance of, for example, the Technical Assistance Organization (THW) or the Federal Police.
The chairman of the German Association of Cities, Burkhard Jung, called in the papers of the Funke media group “a crystal-clear analysis after the emergency relief” of what can be learned from the storm in the future. As an example he mentioned “Consequences for future communication in extreme weather”. For example, the failure of fixed and mobile networks made communication more difficult.