The conference of the state Ministers of the Interior of the German länder met in Bremen December 5 and 6 to take decisions on the digital network for the country’s civil defense agencies and organizations (Behörden und Organisationen mit Sicherheitsaufgaben, BOS). The publicized plan gives short shrift to the demands of fire departments, thus endangering the alerting of rescue teams in rural locations. e*Message has devoted a website to this topic: visit www.bos alarmierung.de.
The decision taken by the conference of ministers fuels fears that the requirements of the volunteer fire departments—which make up the majority of the country’s civil defense organizations—will be practically ignored. The necessary budget reduction is most likely to endanger the reliable alerting of fire brigades. The existing network is to be suppressed, which means that it will no longer be possible to alert at least 200,000 volunteer firefighters.
The situation of the remaining 800,000 firefighters, which has been critical for years, is not likely to improve under the current plan.
The planned digital network will cost about €4,000 million, but does not take basic alerting requirements into account. According to the ministers, municipalities are responsible for alerting firefighters. But upon suppression of the obsolete analogue alerting networks, the municipalities will have to invest at least €6,000 million, as the ministers are not considering plans for developing an alternative, nationwide alerting network.
“This is absolutely unrealistic,” said Dr Dietmar Gollnick, CEO Europe and Chairman of the Executive Board of e*Message Deutschland. “It would be a mistake to pass along the problem to the municipalities under the pretext that they are responsible for firefighting. A two-class society is unacceptable. Which politician will take the responsibility for a deficient telecommunications system when the population is endangered by the next flood? Despite the controversy over the right technology—which has been created by the manufacturers, as thousands of millions of euros are at stake—suddenly nobody cares whether there is a reliable alerting system.”
As early as March, 2002, e*Message presented a special alerting solution that could be integrated into the digital radio network. The costs for this system should amount €50 to 100 million—less than one percent of the cost of the solution currently under consideration. Moreover, the network would be available by 2003, five to ten years earlier than the ministers’ solution. This network is capable of alerting hundreds of groups within minutes. The fire departments could send messages anywhere in Germany. Last but not least, this solution would be compatible with those already chosen by other European countries. Visit www.bos alarmierung.de, the new e*Message site devoted to this topic, for more details and background information.