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Management of severe weather situations with automatic warning systems in municipalities

Alerting, informing and controlling during severe weather situations. The novel system, among other things with MoWaS connection, fully automatically uses all functions of the entire spectrum of the warning mix with complete documentation - especially at the municipal level.

Article from the magazine 'Feuerwehr Fachjournal' - Issue 04 October - December 2021
Considering the severe weather events of July 2021 and previous years, which brought heavy thunderstorms with heavy precipitation, hail and gale-force winds throughout Germany and flooded streets and neighbourhoods in many cities and municipalities, the relevance of the topic of "coping with severe weather" could not be more topical.

Coordinating and informing the population of such an area situation is not an easy task, especially in the initial "chaos phase", when fire brigades are virtually "overrun" by a large number of reports, some with time-critical backgrounds, when severe weather events occur. Experience shows more and more often that extreme weather situations and the associated volume of operations cannot be controlled, but at best managed in a structured manner. However, this requires structures that must be created in advance and consistently implemented in the event of an incident. Therefore, every fire brigade at the community level should create a comprehensive concept with predefined structures in order to be prepared for severe weather situations. To make matters worse, especially in summer thunderstorms, the warning time is often short and the onset and extent of a storm can vary greatly locally.

Part of the structured severe weather concept and a novel approach to optimise the warning chain and thus also to relieve the emergency services are so-called automated population communication systems. Such systems work according to the principle of "Forecasts, measurement, alerting, inform and control":

Forecasts: The systems automatically receive official severe weather forecasts from the German Weather Service (DWD) for the respective municipality up to 4 times a day with pinpoint and maximum accuracy. These severe weather forecasts are automatically transmitted to the command centre with the seat of the municipality's operational command for information and, if necessary, initiation of local advance warnings.

Measurement: Self-sufficient sensor measuring technology (e.g. storm or water level sensors) is installed at neuralgic measuring points in the municipality. If predefined visual threshold values are exceeded, the command centre and/or also the population is automatically alerted.

Alerting: The population is alerted via self-sufficient warning systems with powerful sirens. Voice announcements and scrolling text for risk information and instructions for action are also integrated. The warning systems are connected and can be triggered via the modular warning system (MoWaS) and BOS TETRA.

Inform: A digital warning portal automatically generates all relevant media formats from the incoming hazard messages from different reporting sources (DWD, MoWaS, local measurement technology, control centre, etc.) for immediate partially or fully automatic dispatch to predefined recipients and the population. For example, manual intervention or decision-making is no longer necessary for warning messages of the highest warning level. Automated processing saves time, minimises sources of error and the command post always has access to the latest digital media. The generated warning messages are authentic in terms of content structure and visual appearance and comply with the BBK's design guidelines for warning messages.

Control: The systems are independently controllable and voucher-proof for the local sites in the municipal area. They enable status information of the warning means at any time, including logging and auto-archiving for proof of events.

Even in times of digitalisation, it is unquestionable that the complete automation of the warning chain in disaster management cannot be the general solution for alerting and informing the population. However, especially in the case of rapid and extreme storms, the automation of the warning chain according to the current state of the art will make a significant contribution to relieving the fire brigades and to well-structured operational concepts.

Author: P. Kominek, Coptr Bevölkerungs-Kommunikationssysteme GmbH

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