By Andrew Liszewski
The sound of an air raid siren is what most people associate with natural or man-made disasters, but Germany’s extensive network of sirens was dismantled after the Cold War and replaced with a satellite based warning system (SatWaS) that alerts the population via TV and radio. The only problem is that if people aren’t watching TV or listening to the radio, those warnings go unheard. Over the years many alternatives have been considered, like using the cellular networks to alert everything from phones to smoke detectors, but they still don’t ensure the entire population gets the message. And replacing the siren network would end up costing the government hundreds of millions of Euros.
So researchers at the INT (Fraunhofer-Institut für Naturwissenschaftlich-Technische Trendanalysen) have come up with a more clever alternative. As of September 2010 all new cars in Germany will be equipped with something called the eCall emergency system, which functions a lot like OnStar does in the event of an accident. However, this system could also be used to trigger the horns of parked cars in the event of a disaster that the public needs to be aware of. Because the eCall system also features GPS, the warnings can be limited to a specific geographic area, and while they won’t provide info on exactly what’s happening, it will at least let citizens know they should turn on their TVs or radios for more information.