On the first warning day of 2020, a nationwide test alarm was intended to test how well the population could be warned in the event of a disaster. In the end, however, the Warning day even to disaster. The official warning apps Nina and Katwarn sometimes only informed users half an hour after the test alarm began.
In the event of a disaster, that would be far too late. Especially since some users received no notification at all on the warning day. What makes matters worse is that in 2021 only around eight million people had the state warning app Nina installed on their smartphones.
After the flood disaster in the Ahr Valley in 2021, there was renewed criticism of the official warning apps. At that time, almost 200 people died in the floods. Experts then increasingly called for the introduction of the Cell Broadcast mobile communications standard as a replacement for Nina. The federal government ultimately bowed to this pressure.
On Warning Day 2022, cell broadcast was used for the first time in addition to warning apps, sirens and radio. With success: According to a subsequent survey by the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, 54 percent of the population were only reached via this channel. Overall, the warning message was received by 90 percent of Germans. In an emergency, almost every German citizen would be informed.
According to a decision by the federal and state governments, the warning day takes place on the second Thursday in September. The next nationwide warning day will therefore take place on September 14, 2023. The test alarm begins at 11 a.m. The all-clear should then be given at 11:45 a.m.
The test alarm is intended to make the population understand how and via which means of communication warnings would be given in the event of a disaster. In an emergency, people should be able to react more quickly if they are familiar with the warning. In addition, the warning day is intended to reveal possible technical weaknesses in the existing system, as was the case with the 2020 warning day.
The federal and state governments ask via a website specifically set up for this purpose warntag-umfrage.de after the test alarm for feedback from the population. The aim is to determine how well or poorly the warning was received throughout the country.
A whole range of warning options should be used on warning day. This also includes the classic siren signal. A one-minute rising and falling howling tone indicates the simulated threat. A one-minute continuous tone then follows to give the all-clear signal. Since there are no longer sirens in many communities, smartphones in particular are intended to warn the population.
In addition to the existing warning apps such as Nina or Katwarn, Cell Broadcast was also used for the first time at Warning Day 2022. Thanks to the mobile phone standard, the warning can be played on all newer smartphones – without installing an additional app.
In addition, the federal and state governments also rely on the support of broadcasters. Radio and television stations should act as so-called warning multipliers and help spread the warning. The warning is also displayed on many digital city information boards and the information boards of transport providers.
You can also see all warning messages online the overview page of the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief recall.
In some municipalities, loudspeaker trucks could also be used by the fire brigade, police and public order office to warn the population. In addition, local authorities could also use social networks to inform about the warning.
Cell Broadcast works similarly to SMS. But instead of sending the message to just one recipient, warnings sent via it are sent to all smartphones within a radio cell. The mobile phone standard allows a message to be sent to hundreds of thousands of radio cells, ideally to warn the entire country of any danger.
From a data protection perspective, cell broadcast is harmless. Since cell broadcast messages are sent to all cell phones in a radio cell, the telephone number of the receiving devices is irrelevant and is not stored.
Android supports cell broadcast from version 11. Since Android 11 was released in 2011, the majority of all Android smartphones active in Germany should have no problem with cell broadcast.
Cell Broadcast has been supported since iOS version 15.6.1. This means that all Apple smartphones since the iPhone 6s supported cell broadcast. For older devices, however, you should make sure that you actually have the latest available operating system version installed.
There is currently no all-clear signal being transmitted via cell broadcast. However, according to the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, mobile phone providers are working on giving the all-clear in this way in the future.
Until the 1990s, there was a nationwide network of warning sirens in Germany. With the end of the Cold War, many of them were dismantled. Many cities therefore no longer have the appropriate equipment. In addition, municipalities are not obliged to take part in the nationwide warning day.