Civil protection: the digital warning system Cell Broadcast will be available from 2022

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After the flood disaster, Germany should now also receive cell broadcasts. The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid (BBK) wants to install the public warning system by summer 2022, reports the editorial network Germany (RND), citing government circles.

Using cell broadcast, network operators can send a warning as a push message to all cell phone users who are registered in a specific radio cell. Because these push messages are simply sent to all devices, no recipient lists are required, which means that the system is considered data protection-friendly. In addition, it is data-efficient, so it does not overload the transmission systems. The maximum length of the messages is 1,395 characters. In addition to specific warnings, behavior tips can also be transmitted.

Cell broadcast is fundamentally included in the mobile communications standards, so implementation is easily possible. What is needed, however, is a corresponding regulation from the federal government. The costs for the introduction should amount to 20 to 40 million euros, said BBK President Armin Schuster the editorial network Germany.

At the beginning of this week he still spoke of a feasibility study that should first be carried out by autumn. The massive public criticism this week seems to have left its mark. Apparently the federal government now wants to accelerate the introduction.

Already in use in many countries

Cell broadcast is already being used with great success in many countries . These include Japan, Bangladesh, the USA and the Netherlands, who have been using the system as part of NL-Alert since 2012. More than 90 percent of the population should be able to be reached, according to a report by AG Kritis – a working group that deals with critical infrastructures.

The EU also stipulates the implementation in a 2018 directive. EU countries should actually introduce the cell broadcast system by 2022. However, there is an exception for countries that can provide an equivalent replacement. Germany apparently wanted to use these exceptions, the warning strategy relied on apps like Nina and Katwarn, as Christoph Unger, who was in office last year at the Federal Office for Disaster Protection, explained in an interview with Der Spiegel. In this context, however, there were also some fundamental misunderstandings regarding the functionality of cell broadcast, the data protection aspects and the network loadWarning apps turned out to be insufficient in an emergency. In any case, these are considered problematic, users have to install apps themselves, so not even everyone with a mobile phone is informed. And currently only around 15 percent of mobile phone users have installed a warning app, reports the editorial network Germany. Analog warnings via sirens are also not possible everywhere, because the corresponding infrastructure simply no longer exists.

Demand for cyber aid organization

Apart from cell broadcast, there is a further requirement. For example, the FDP wants to introduce a cyber aid organization based on the Technische Hilfswerk (THW), reports Der Spiegel. Like corresponding organizations in the USA, this should then take care of ensuring that the Internet connections are maintained or quickly restored in the event of a disaster.

There were power failures in many disaster areas, both lines and transmission masts were damaged or completely destroyed by floods. The construction work is ongoing, but in some places the infrastructure has to be completely renewed.