The relevant government agencies are constantly monitoring the situation with regard to natural hazards, and are responsible for issuing warnings to the authorities and the public. Warnings of severe and very severe hazards may be subject to a broadcast obligation, in which case they will be issued as “Government Warnings” by public and private radio and television stations.
Issuing natural hazard warnings to the public
Various Swiss government agencies constantly monitor the natural hazard situation, and are responsible for issuing appropriate warnings in the event of an impending hazard. The offices and agencies and their respective responsibility areas are as follows:
- Hazardous weather conditions: Federal Office for Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss)
- Floods and associated mud and landslides: Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)
- Forest fires: Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)
- Avalanches: WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
- Earthquake alerts: Swiss Seismological Service (SED) at ETH Zurich
Coordination of warnings
The individual specialist agencies take a coordinated approach when issuing warnings, and use a scale of 1-5 for identifying the hazard category for each hazard warning instance. If an event relates to more than one specialist agency, joint warnings are issued on the basis of an agreed assessment of the hazard situation (working to the “Single Official Voice” principle). The various specialist government agencies for natural hazards consult with each other via the “Natural Hazards Steering Committee”.
Broadcasting warnings on radio and television
In response to the floods experienced in 2005, the government stipulated that the public should be more effectively and actively informed about current natural hazard warnings issued by the relevant government agencies. A broadcasting obligation was therefore introduced for certain warnings, applicable to the SRF, RTS and RSI radio and television stations as well as all licensed local radio stations and television channels with a performance mandate, insofar as the warning relates to their broadcasting area. This allows the relevant specialist agencies to declare category 4 and 5 (severe and very severe natural hazard) warnings as subject to mandatory broadcast, as they see fit. In such cases, a warning is issued in the affected region in line with specific procedures, and with standardised acoustic and visual characteristics. This is broadcast on radio and television as a “Government Warning”.
The NEOC hub
The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) within the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP) acts as a central point for the rapid, reliable and coordinated communication of warnings from the specialist agencies to the media stations that are subject to the broadcasting obligation. The NEOC is also responsible for ensuring that the warnings issued to the public are coordinated, in terms of content and timing, with those issued to the authorities (Federal Offices/Cantons).