Since the heavy rain disaster in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate almost a year ago, at the latest, sirens have once again become a topic of conversation throughout Germany. But a nationwide "Warning Day" in 2020 had already shown that the importance of sirens is high and that the population's expectations of the existence of sirens are great For decades, they were almost forgotten as an important alerting option in many places. After the end of the Cold War, the nationwide siren network was largely dismantled. The number of sirens still in operation today varies between 15,000 and 35,000, but even where they still exist, most of them are no longer state of the art.

One thing is certain: the siren network in Germany is being expanded again. To this end, the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) is funding a support program of around 90 million euros until the end of this year and is supplementing efforts already undertaken at the state level. According to the BBK (Hall 17/B42 u. D57), the aim is to increase the availability of the warning device in the area and for civil protection.

In addition, the sirens are to be brought up to the most uniform modern technical standard possible. Among other things, this should prepare the way for central triggering via the Modular Warning System (MoWaS). In this way, warnings can be better adapted to the actual danger. The conventional sirens are mainly owned by the municipalities and cannot be activated directly via MoWaS so far. Through a connection, a simultaneous warning via all warning channels is possible.

We need a warning mix

Expansion and modernization of the siren warning system will also play a prominent role at INTERSCHUTZ 2022. Market leader HÖRMANN Warnsysteme (Hall 17/E24), for example, will be demonstrating electronic sirens suitable for the support program and its experts will be assisting those responsible in planning a nationwide siren warning system. "Due to climate change, there is a new threat situation and thus a need for action," Matthias Müllner, Managing Director of HÖRMANN Warnsysteme, explains the topicality of the issue.

"We need a reasonable warning mix that includes different warning channels. Only in this way can the population be warned in good time in all situations. Each warning begins with the wake-up effect of the siren, after which the citizen can inform himself about his regional situation by means of other information channels. He receives recommendations for action, for example 'Close the windows' or 'Leave the building and move to higher ground'," Müllner continues. Another focus of the company's INTERSCHUTZ presentation is the integration of electronic sirens into radio-based communication infrastructures such as TETRA and the BOS digital radio.

Test alarm every Saturday

Sirens have not been forgotten everywhere in Germany. In some communities, they are still used intermittently to warn the public or alert fire departments. In some places, the wailing sounds can even be heard regularly in individual regions, for example when they are tested for functionality on Saturdays at 12 noon.

One example is the district of Pinneberg in Schleswig-Holstein. There, by the way, the administration launched an initiative asking the population to make refugees from Ukraine aware of the routine test siren alarm. The aim is to ensure that the wailing sirens do not evoke traumatic memories in the refugees.