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Overview of the National Disaster Management System

Overview of the National Disaster Management System

According to the Constitution, the federal states (“Länder”) are responsible for disaster management. They have enacted respective disaster management laws, defining the responsible disaster management authorities and delegating a number of administrative and operational tasks to the regional and local level.

In case of defence, the Federation is in charge of civil protection, as laid out in the Federal Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Act (ZSKG). The Federation can draw on Länder resources and complements these if needed (integrated emergency response system). The Federation provides additional equipment, supplies and training to the Länder and may support them in case of disaster upon request (disaster assistance).

The Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) is the superior federal government authority for civil protection. The BMI supervises the 2 national civil protection agencies:

  • The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) carries out specific tasks of the Federation with regard to civil protection, such as risk management, warning of the population, information and resource management, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN), and health protection, protection of critical infrastructure and cultural property, research, international cooperation. The BBK´s experts develop strategies, conduct crisis management exercises and raise awareness among the public to enhance self-protection.
  • The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) is a governmental non-profit organisation. As a technical and operational agency, its tasks include technical relief and assistance in emergencies, within Germany and abroad.


Identifying risks and contributing to disaster prevention by reducing risks requires a cross-sectoral approach. Both on a national and sub-national level, preventive elements are embedded in legal and conceptual frameworks of different sectors such as environment, health, agriculture, water management, critical infrastructure, urban planning, education, development cooperation, and consumer protection.

At regional and local level, the competent authority may likewise consider preventive aspects in the sector concerned, involve the respective disaster management authority and thus contribute to a concerted approach.

Risk assessment

Following the Federal Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Act, the Federation carries out a nationwide risk analysis for civil protection in collaboration with the Länder.

In the interest of following a holistic approach, the risk analysis will be supplemented by more specific risk analyses conducted by the Länder and local authorities in their own respective area of competence.

The findings of a risk analysis contribute directly to adopting an integrated action plan, defining flexible, efficient and effective actions in case of an incident. Risk analysis is considered a partial aspect of comprehensive risk management comprising ongoing risk identification, analysis, evaluation, and management.

Risk management planning

Risk management planning is a key element of disaster management. There is a close connection between risk analysis and capacity-based planning and, consequently, between risk management and crisis management.

The National Focal Point for the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) was established at the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance. It is embedded in an inter-ministerial working group and is mandated to coordinate and to facilitate the implementation of the SFDRR in Germany.

Risk communication and awareness raising

Risk communication is a strategic tool with a long-term orientation that aims to raise awareness amongst the public of possible risks and to promote self-protection and self-help. There is a large number of institutions and organisations that ensure the availability and dissemination of general information and data in different sectors, especially climate and environment, thereby contributing to raising public awareness of disaster risks (e.g. Deutscher Wetterdienst, Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, Umweltbundesamt, Robert-Koch-Institut, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum or Helmholtz Association etc.).

The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, as the responsible national executive agency for civil protection, offers a wide range of information, guidelines, and recommendations on disasters and risks in order to improve the level of self-protection and self-help amongst the public.


Training and exercises

Based on the Federal Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Act (ZSKG), the Federation supports the education of the population in self-protection by providing advice and guidance, and supports other actors in the field of civil protection, for examples, fire services, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), local disaster management authorities, and participating relief organisations in their duty to provide information to the population.

The Academy for Crisis Management, Emergency Planning and Civil Protection (AKNZ) as part of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance is the central educational institution of the Federation for civil protection and crisis management and serves as a forum for scientific exchange, both nationally and internationally.

The THW combines basic training at its local sections with additional specialist and management training and the training of experts for missions abroad at its training centres. THW cooperates with external educational institutions and sends its staff to international trainings (EU, UN). Exercises are implemented on various levels (regional, national, international) to apply and deepen the acquired knowledge.

The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief also carry out training courses on international level, e.g. within the Union Civil Protection Mechanism or for the UN.

Since maintenance of efficient fire services is one of the compulsory tasks of municipalities and towns, fire brigade education and training follows a primarily municipal approach and differs according to the type of fire brigade.

The different relief organisations run their own training programs.

Regular “Interministerial and Interstate Crisis Management Exercises” (LÜKEX, coordinated by the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance) allow the Federal Government and the Länder to jointly prepare for (extraordinary) incidents and provide them with an opportunity for putting existing plans and management concepts to the test.

In addition, the Länder carry out their own training exercises in the field of disaster management.

Early warning systems

Germany’s national meteorological service (Deutscher Wetterdienst, DWD) is responsible for weather forecasting and the issue of official warnings for weather phenomena posing a potential danger to the public or having high potential to cause damage.

Flood forecasts and assessments are carried out by the flood forecasting and control centres of the Länder and in cooperation with the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration.

Seismological monitoring is ensured within the Länder, whilst a major amount of data is collected by the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR).

The Federal Radiological Situation Centre (GRS) becomes active in the event of a radiological emergency.

The German Joint Information and Situation Centre (GMLZ) within the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance  is a central interface with the objective of improving the sharing of knowledge and cooperation between the Federation and the Länder. As a specialist situation centre in the field of civil protection, it prepares situation reports and prognosis, coordinates information and resources at the federal level and serves as the national point of contact for a range of national and international information and warning procedures for the Federal Republic of Germany.

The authorities of the Länder (at the local level) are responsible for warning the population in case of an incident. Possible types of communication channels include radio announcements, written information material, the internet or social media platforms, loudspeaker announcements from emergency response vehicles, "door-to-door" information or the use of sirens.

The Federation has set up MoWaS, a satellite-based modular warning system, for defence and crisis situations that is also available to the Länder as a central warning and information system. A smartphone application called NINA, developed by the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, is one of the possible channels used to disseminate warnings.

In the case of defence, the Federal Government is responsible for recording threats from aerial warfare and large-scale radiological hazards. For this purpose, a warning centre and two civil protection liaison cells (CDLC) are maintained. The CDLC’s are co-located to NATO aerial warfare command posts (CAOC and CRC).

Emergency Response

In times of peace, the Länder are responsible for disaster management. According to the disaster management laws of the Länder, a number of administrative and operational tasks are delegated to the regional and local level. First and foremost, the districts are responsible for disaster management (within the multi-level system of disaster management authorities).

They have to ensure that a command structure for disaster control is set up, which is adequately staffed and trained. Furthermore, they are in charge of developing disaster management plans.

In case of an incident, the fire brigades and relief organisations form the operational and tactical units for immediate technical and medical assistance at local level.

When asked for assistance, the Federation may support the local and regional authorities and the Länder with their own operational forces (e.g. the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, the Federal Police, and, with certain limitations regarding the use of weapons, the Armed Forces) and with services provided by The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance .

According to its legal mandate, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief provides technical assistance within the framework of the Civil Defence Act, i.e. in major disasters, emergencies and accidents, upon request of the responsible authorities as well as abroad on behalf of the Federation.

Cross-border, European and international cooperation

The Federation may engage in international disaster relief operations on the basis of bilateral assistance agreements or within the framework of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism or of the UN's humanitarian aid in line with the principles of subsidiarity and voluntary participation.

Germany has signed bilateral agreements on mutual disaster assistance with all of its neighbouring states and the following states: Belgium, Denmark, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

In several partner countries, the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance  and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief are engaged in projects to assist other states in strengthening their own civil protection capacities and capabilities (e.g. Tunisia, Jordan, Ukraine, and China).

The Bundeswehr Territorial Tasks Command (KdoTerrAufgBw) is the central coordination and control command for the provision of host nation support in Germany. It coordinates and organises the provision of infrastructure required for the reception, staging and onward movement process (RSOM) as well as the transport support from German ports of debarkation to the RSOM areas. It is the 24/7 contact for all nations in transit through Germany and for all NATO or EU operations-HQs entrusted with RSOM.

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