Following severe storms in Austria during the summer months, the Austrian Federal Government has announced a new smartphone disaster warning system will be implemented in the coming months.
The AT-Alert system will involve push notifications sent to smartphones to warn people of disasters like storms, chemical accidents or terrorist attacks, reports ORF.
It is expected to be rolled-out in the first quarter of 2023 in coordination with mobile phone companies, the nine federal state warning centres and the Ministry of the Interior.
Secretary of State for Digitization Florian Tursky (ÖVP) said: “Almost 90 percent of all Austrians own a smartphone – our daily companion.
“It is obvious that we should get warnings about this in everyday life. The last few months in particular have shown how important and necessary it is to provide people with quick and simple information.”
AT-Alert will be used in addition to the existing siren alarm in Austria to become the country’s public warning system. It will operate in a similar way to the EU-Alert, the bloc’s public warning system that uses cell broadcast technology, also known as push notifications.
The technology enables disaster alerts to be sent to multiple mobile phones at the same time.
What other disaster warning systems does Austria have?
The Ministry of the Interior already has a smartphone app called KATWARN, which can warn of potential emergencies and disasters. But only for people that have downloaded the app.
KATWARN is a system that displays information and warnings from various authorities based on location or topic to smartphones, the Ministry of Interior says.
The app complements the existing warning options such as sirens, loudspeakers and media broadcasts. The advantage is that it can immediately warn people of any significant events, informing them of the danger and, just as important, giving immediate information on how to behave.
According to the Bundesministerium Inneres, some of the examples given for when KATWARN is used include police emergencies, natural disasters and extreme weather hazards and any major events or industrial accidents.
Additionally, the app may be used for call outs to the public, for example, with information on missing persons.