Warning day background
These disaster scenarios threaten Germany
12/07/2022 8:34 p.m
The effectiveness of the information systems in Germany is to be tested on the nationwide warning day. But what dangers could the population actually be warned about in an emergency? And which of these have already happened in the past?
On Thursday, the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) will trigger a test alarm throughout Germany at 11 a.m. With the nationwide warning day, the authority wants to find out how many people a warning of dangers would reach in an emergency. But what could actually be warned about – what danger scenarios are conceivable for Germany?
On July 13, 2022, the federal government adopted the “German Strategy for Strengthening Resilience to Disasters”. It aims to strengthen the community’s resilience and adaptability to disasters. The Federal Ministry of the Interior has an overview of what these can be summarized: They range from storms, floods, heat waves and epidemics to meteorite impacts and cyber attacks. Here is an overview:
Due to global warming, extreme weather events such as heat waves, drought and heavy rain are also threatening to increase in Germany. The federal government sees potential dangers above all in so-called hydro-meteorological hazards such as floods, severe storms and heavy rain. But heat waves and droughts can also become a problem and result in forest fires, for example.
Occurrences: Above all, the flood disaster in July 2021 in western Germany made the need for a functioning early warning system clear. Heavy rain had resulted in devastating flooding Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia led, more than 180 people died. Up to 30 billion euros have been budgeted for reconstruction. Heavy storms such as hurricane “Jeanett” in 2002 and hurricane “Kyrill” in 2007 each cost the lives of around a dozen people in Germany and caused damage in the billions. Heat waves like 2003 and 2018, which each claimed thousands of lives, had far more serious consequences.
Although Germany is located in a geologically relatively stable region, so-called geological dangers can also threaten here: these include landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – and also dangers from space, such as meteorite impacts.
Occurrences: Strong earthquakes in Germany are rare, but can be dangerous. One of the most severe was the 1992 earthquake in the Dutch city of Roermond, near the German border. More than 30 people were injured on the German side, roof tiles fell and trees fell. The damage amounted to around 150 million marks.
The risk of a volcanic eruption in Germany seems low – but the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull had a major impact on air traffic in Germany in 2010: Some airports had to be closed. Only one fatality from a meteorite is known worldwide – in 1888 one person died in Iraq and another was seriously injured. Nevertheless, the danger is real: in 2013, the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded over Siberia. The resulting pressure wave mostly damaged window panes in more than 3,000 buildings.
Chemical, biological and nuclear hazards
Incidents in chemical plants and nuclear power plants – even if only three are still connected to the grid – can also pose a danger to the population. But this area also includes food safety and biological hazards such as infectious diseases.
Occurrences: By far the most serious catastrophe in this category is the Covid-19 pandemic that broke out in early 2020 and was triggered by the Sars-CoV-2 virus. To date, it has resulted in around 160,000 known deaths in Germany, and more than 36 million people have fallen ill. At the beginning of 2022, experts had estimated the economic damage caused by the pandemic for Germany at around 350 billion euros. But the nation has also been repeatedly hit by catastrophic flu waves: more than 25,000 people died during the severe flu wave in winter 2017/2018.
Human or technical failure
Also fall under this serious nuclear, biological and chemical accidents or large-scale failures of vital infrastructure such as energy or telecommunications. This also includes dangers from outer space, such as the uncontrolled re-entry of rocket parts or failures of GPS satellites.
Occurrences: The Münsterland snow chaos in 2005 caused traffic riots and blackouts – a quarter of a million people were without electricity at the time. The damage amounted to more than 180 million euros. So far, falling rocket parts have not caused any disasters in Germany – but Spain had to close its airspace in November 2022 because of an uncontrolled falling Chinese rocket.
Terrorist attacks or killing sprees can endanger many lives. It becomes even more dangerous if chemical, biological or nuclear means of mass destruction come into play. Even wars are not out of the question for Germany, even if there has been peace in most parts of Central and Western Europe for more than 70 years. But since Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, Germany’s military involvement with consequences for the national territory has once again become conceivable.
Occurrences: Numerous terrorist attacks and rampages have shaken Germany in recent years. The rampage in Erfurt in 2002, in which a former student aKilling 16 people in the Gutenberg-Gymnasium in Erfurt resulted in the most victims. The most serious terrorist attacks occurred in 2020 in right-wing extremist-motivated attacks in Hanau, where ten people were murdered, and in Berlin at the end of 2016: At that time, the assassin Anis Amri drove a stolen truck to the Christmas market at the Memorial Church, killing 13 people.
threats in cyberspace
Cyber attacks on Germany, which could be used by foreign states to create confusion and influence Germany, also pose a risk. The Federal Government warns that cyber-attacks are increasingly aimed at critical infrastructure and thus endanger critical services for the population, such as water and electricity supplies.
Occurrences: There have been several cyber attacks in Germany in recent years. Around 2015: 16 gigabytes of data were stolen during a hacker attack on the German Bundestag. In July 2021 there was a cyber attack on the Anhalt-Bitterfeld district administration. The district then called the disaster mode.