The German Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) announced that the public warning system Cell Broadcast will be installed in Germany by the summer of next year. The impetus for this was the current flood disasters in our country.
Warnings via push message
Installing Cell Broadcast will make warning the population quick and uncomplicated. For example, network operators can then send a warning by push message to all cellular users when they have logged into a particular cell. Since the messages are sent to all devices, it is not necessary to keep lists of recipients. This makes it a simple and privacy-friendly system. At the same time, the maximum length of a message is 1,395 characters, so that not only specific warnings, but also tips on how to behave can be used.
Implementation feasible without problems
Due to the fact that Cell Broadcast is included in the mobile radio standards, the installation can be implemented in Germany without any problems. However, a prerequisite for installation and use is a corresponding ordinance from the German government. According to BBK President Armin Schuster, the costs for the introduction in our country amount to between 20 and 40 million euros. Before that, according to the information available, a feasibility study should be carried out by the fall of this year. In view of current developments and public criticism, the federal government has now decided to abandon this study. Implementation is now to be accelerated so that the warning system can be deployed as quickly as possible.
Cell Broadcast is already being used successfully in many different countries to warn of disasters. These include the USA, the Netherlands, which has been using this system as part of NL-Alert since 2012, Bangladesh and also Japan. This can reach more than 90 percent of the population, according to a report by AG Kritis. AG Kritis is a working group that deals with critical infrastructure.
However, use of an exemption
Back in 2018, the implementation of cell broadcast was codified by the EU in a directive for implementation. Now, EU countries are supposed to have completed the rollout by 2022. Countries that already use an equivalent system are not affected by this. Germany had previously taken advantage of this exception and relied on a warning strategy using the apps Nina and Katwarn. This was explained by the acting head of the Federal Office for Disaster Protection Christoph Unger. Here, there were probably also some fundamental misunderstandings about how Cell Broadcast works. Especially regarding network utilization and data protection.
However, the use of the warning apps proved to be insufficient in an emergency, apart from which they are considered problematic. The apps have to be installed by the users themselves first, so only people with the app can be informed, so those who do not have the app will not be warned either. According to the current status or reports from the Redationsnetzwerk Deutschland, 15 percent of German mobile phone users have such a warning app installed on their device. In addition, it is also not possible to receive analog warnings everywhere through sirens, as the necessary infrastructure is not available.
Cyber aid agency to provide further remedy
Not only is the demand for Cell Broadcast great, but there should also be a Cyber-Hilfswerk. The FDP wants a cyber aid organization along the lines of the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW). In line with the organizations in the USA, the cyber aid organization should ensure that people do not lose contact with the outside world in the event of a disaster and that a connection to the Internet is maintained or quickly restored.