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In an alert, a one-minute up/down wailing tone is used in each state, whilst a one-minute continuous wail signals the all clear . Other than that, there are no nationwide standards. For detailed local information, you should contact your local council.

Alert messages should be distributed in as many ways as possible in order to reach large parts of the population. Technology and procedures have been continuously developed to meet the strategic requirements of an integrated warning system.

Today, with the Modular Warning System (MoWaS), the Federal Republic operates an efficient alert and communication system. It is used jointly by the Federal Government and the states to provide warning messages and information to the wider community in emergency situations.

The alert message is transmitted via satellite. In contrast to terrestrial or land-based systems such as VHF or mobile radio, satellite communication is less sensitive to interference such as power cuts.

MoWaS is divided into these components, activation, alert republishers and equipment:

  • Activation comprises the transmit and receive systems at the Federal, state and local command and control centres. There are currently more than 100 of those across the country. Next to satellite-based all-round systems, a web-based input portal can be used to electronically transmit alert messages to the all round systems as a template and triggered from there. This web-based access is mainly used by local civil protection authorities and will be trialled in a live operation from October 2017 to September 2020 as part of a Federal/state disaster warning project. More than 200 stations are participating across the country.
  • Warning disseminators include government agencies, organisations and private sector enterprises (such as rail operators), all public broadcasting corporations and a large number of private media companies, internet and paging services as well as app operators (e.g. NINA, KatWarn, BIWAPP warning apps), who forward the alert messages to their customers or users, i.e. ultimately to the wider community as the intended audience. The issuing authority assigns an alert level to the warning messages, which depends on the hazard concerned. There are three levels:
  1. 1 – High – ›Emergency message
  2. 2 – Medium – ›Emergency notification of danger
  3. 3 – Low – ›Emergency information

Under an agreement between republishers and BBK as the operator of MoWaS, the warning republishers undertake to publish or transmit alert messages. This defines how the republishers, especially the broadcasters, need to process messages in accordance with the warning levels.

  • MoWaS-capable devices or other systems include radio or TV sets, Internet, mobile phone apps and digital display advertising screens

An all-clear is sent when the danger has passed or the impact been scaled down. The all-clear is usually issued by the institution that had issued the warning in the first place, usually over the same channel. For example, a radio station will broadcast an all-clear message and the NINA warning app will send an all-clear notification.

A warning should predominantly reach those who would suffer from the emergency, but also sometimes those who might legitimately claim to feel affected.  The target group is not only the resident population – those who tend to be more or less familiar with the area – but those who happen to be there, i.e. visitors, commuters, short-term workers, transient people etc.

At the same time, warnings are also addressed to institutions, authorities and businesses, enabling them to make the right decisions, adjust production processes or take steps to protect staff and the organisation itself.

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