One year of Cell Broadcast in Baden-Württemberg

February 23, 2024

Minister Thomas Strobl: “The last 12 months have shown that cell broadcasting enables us to reach a large number of people quickly and easily in an emergency”

“In the event of imminent danger or damage, it is crucial that we warn the population and give people recommendations for action. The first year since the introduction of Cell Broadcast has shown this: Cell Broadcast allows us to reach a large number of people easily and quickly directly via their mobile phones: the mobile phone shrills very loudly and plays a warning message. At the same time, the authorities in Baden-Württemberg are using the new warning channel with great care,” said Deputy Minister President and Minister of the Interior Thomas Strobl in Stuttgart on 23 February 2024.

Ten warning messages have been issued via cell broadcast in Baden-Württemberg to date. The new warning system was used in particular for fires and when bombs from World War II were found.

Since the end of February 2023, the Cell Broadcast warning channel has been available to the federal government, the federal states and local authorities as an additional warning channel. Cell Broadcast is a service for sending messages to all users whose mobile devices are located in a specific section of the mobile network, known as a radio cell. “The great advantage of Cell Broadcast is that almost every citizen now owns a mobile phone and can therefore potentially be the recipient of a Cell Broadcast message,” emphasised Interior Minister Thomas Strobl.

“In order to reach the population in an emergency in very different situations – whether on the way to work, during sport or at home on the sofa – we rely on a mix of warning channels and, in addition to cell broadcast, also use warning apps such as NINA or BIWAPP as well as warnings via radio and television stations, newspaper editorial offices or online services,” said Interior Minister Thomas Strobl.

Overview of the advantages and limitations of the Cell Broadcast warning channel

The Cell Broadcast warning channel has the following advantages, among others:

  • Citizens do not have to download an app or register their mobile phone number to use Cell Broadcast.
  • The sending of a warning message via Cell Broadcast is not affected by an increased volume of mobile phone calls. Even if a call cannot be dialled into a cell due to overbooking, this has no influence on the data transmission of a warning message via Cell Broadcast. According to the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, the warning message is sent without delay.
  • Multilingual warnings are possible, currently in German and English.

Cell Broadcast has the following limitations in particular:

  • In order to receive Cell Broadcast, an appropriate mobile phone terminal that fulfils the technical requirements must be used. To receive Cell Broadcast, the device must not be in flight mode or kept out of earshot.
  • In the event of interference or a power failure, Cell Broadcast is only available if the local mobile radio cells are also available.
  • Cell Broadcast has a character limit. In order to receive more information about a hazardous situation, the affected citizens must use other means of warning such as warning apps or radio and television.
  • What else needs to be considered with Cell Broadcast?
  • Regular updates to the operating systems of mobile devices are necessary for the reception of cell broadcast warnings.
  • In principle, the reception of cell broadcast warning messages can be individually suppressed depending on the mobile phone terminal and the respective software on the mobile phone terminal. However, warning messages with the highest warning level (warning level 1) cannot be suppressed in Cell Broadcast.
  • It is not yet possible to send all-clear messages via Cell Broadcast.

Background information

In Baden-Württemberg, the authorities responsible for emergency response can use the Modular Warning System (MoWaS) to warn the population. Warning messages can be disseminated in as many ways as possible in order to reach as large a proportion of the population as possible. MoWaS currently includes the warning apps.

NINA, KATWARN and BIWAPP, some regional warning apps, Cell Broadcast, radio and television stations, newspaper editorial offices and online services, digital city information boards and some transport companies are connected. All warning messages via MoWaS are also published on the website operated by the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance. Sirens are also to be connected to MoWaS in the future. All connected warning devices can be triggered simultaneously via MoWaS with a single input.

The number of warning messages issued via MoWaS in recent years has risen continuously. After 189 alerts in 2020 and 222 alerts in 2021, the number of alerts rose to 259 in 2022. In 2023, the number was on a par with the previous year at 256 alerts.

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