Natural Hazards Governance in Germany
Natural Hazards Governance in Germany
- Mark KammerbauerMark KammerbauerAugsburg University of Applied Sciences
In the Federal Republic of Germany, with its parliamentary system of democratic governance, threats posed by natural hazards are of key national relevance. Storms cause the majority of damage and are the most frequent natural hazard, the greatest economic losses are related to floods, and extreme temperatures such as heatwaves cause the greatest number of fatalities. In 2002 a New Strategy for Protecting the Population in Germany was formulated. In this context, natural hazard governance structures and configurations comprise the entirety of actors, rules and regulations, agreements, processes, and mechanisms that deal with collecting, analyzing, communicating, and managing information related to natural hazards.
The federal structure of crisis and disaster management shapes how responsible authorities coordinate and cooperate in the case of a disaster due to natural hazards. It features a vertical structure based on subsidiarity and relies heavily on volunteer work. As a state responsibility, the aversion of threats due to natural hazards encompasses planning and preparedness and the response to disaster. The states have legislative power to create related civil protection policies. The institutional and organizational frameworks and measures for disaster response can, therefore, differ between states. The coordination of state ministries takes place by activating an inter-ministerial crisis task force. District administrators or mayors bear the political responsibility for disaster management and lead local efforts that can include recovery and reconstruction measures. The operationalization of disaster management efforts on local levels follows the principle of subsidiarity, and state laws are implemented by local authorities.
Based on this structure and the related institutions and responsibilities, actors from different tiers of government interact in the case of a natural hazard incident, in particular if state or local levels of government are overwhelmed:
• states can request assistance from the federal government and its institutions;
• states can request assistance from the police forces and authorities of other states; and
• if the impact of a disaster exceeds local capacities, the next higher administrative level takes on the coordinating role.
Due to the complexity of this federated governance system, the vertical integration of governance structures is important to ensure the effective response to and management of a natural hazard incident. Crisis and disaster management across state borders merges the coordination and communication structures on the federal and state levels into an inter-state crisis management structure.
Within this governance structure, private market and civil society actors play important roles within the disaster cycle and its phases of planning and preparedness, response, and recovery/reconstruction, such as flood insurance providers, owners of critical infrastructure, volunteer organizations, and research institutions.
• critical infrastructure is a strategic federal policy area in the field of crisis management and is considered a specific protection subject, resulting in particular planning requirements and regulations;
• volunteer organizations cooperate within the vertical structure of disaster management;
• flood insurance is currently available in Germany to private customers, while coverage is considered low; and
• research on natural hazards is undertaken by public and private higher education and research institutions that can form partnerships with governmental institutions.
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