Fast flow of information is essential
Disasters can occur with very little advanced warning and sometimes with none at all. This is why it is so important to ensure a fast flow of information and to alert the population on time.
National Emergency Operations Centre
As a general rule, the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), a division of the Federal Office for Civil Protection, is in charge of raising the alarm. The NEOC is the federal centre of expertise for exceptional events, in particular hazards arising from increased radioactivity as the result of an incident in a nuclear power plant or laboratory or due to a transport accident. Other examples of exceptional events include large-scale chemical accidents, dam bursts and hazards associated with satellite re-entry.
Cooperating with the authorities
In its role as a centre of expertise, the Federal Office for Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss) is in charge of warning the authorities and providing the public with generally applicable recommendations on what to do in the event of hazardous weather conditions, such as gale force storms and heavy rainfall. It works closely with the NEOC. As a centre of expertise, the Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) is responsible for warning the authorities and providing the public with generally applicable recommendations on what to do in the event of an avalanche risk. Dam operators are responsible for raising the Water Alarm. In principle, all competent authorities can and are authorised to sound the alarm in the event of a local/regional incident. The cantonal police must be contacted immediately when the siren is sounded.
Since most disasters tend to be of local or regional scope, the entire population of the affected area must be systematically alerted and notified. Switzerland has a nationwide siren network. In cooperation with the cantons, municipalities and dam operators, the Federal Office for Civil Protection aims to ensure that the warning system is state-of-the art and that it is operationally ready at any time. To this end, all sirens throughout Switzerland are tested once a year.
Disseminating information and instructions
On hearing the "General Alarm", the population must immediately turn on the radio. To reach the public via radio throughout the year and at any time of the day or night, the Swiss Broad-casting Corporation (SRG SSR) uses the ICARO system. All cantonal police operations centres are also linked up to this system.