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A handy guide to Germany's many emergency resources

Germany is considered one of the safest countries in the world. We’ve compiled information on the most important institutions and authorities together with contact details should you ever face an emergency.
by Clara Krug

Being in an unfamiliar environment can make people feel insecure. Germany is considered one of the world’s safest countries. The authorities responsible for public safety are well prepared, people are available to handle every situation and there are institutions that can be contacted for help. An overview of the most important helpers in emergencies.

A great university world and research community, good career prospects and low unemployment: When young people have a career in mind, Germany is one of their most popular choices. It offers a high quality of life and a stable economy. But Germany also benefits from having well-educated and qualified employees, especially as statistics show the population is set to decline in coming years. Consequently, highly qualified young people are in great demand on the labor market, and qualified employees enjoy excellent prospects in Germany.

Nonetheless: very few young people find it easy deciding to leave home and live in a foreign country. Being in an unfamiliar environment can make people feel insecure. Many concerns can be allayed in advance simply by making careful preparations for living abroad. Moreover, according to the Global Peace Index 2016 Germany is considered one of the safest countries in the world. Naturally, Germany cannot provide one hundred percent safety from terrorist attacks, natural disasters or other risks. But the Federal German government does a lot to ensure that people in Germany can live in safety. And the public security agencies are well prepared.

The most important emergency call numbers

In Germany there are persons and institutions you can contact in almost any situation – whether it is worries and fears, dealing with various challenges, or coping in an actual emergency. Depending on the situation and problem there are various authorities at hand to provide assistance. The police and fire department are among the most important. Whether it is for serious health problems, a fire, an attack, theft or other situation in which you need urgent help: in an emergency you can ring the toll-free number 110 or 112. The 110 is the number to ring for the police, 112 will connect you to the fire department and emergency services. And even if you get the numbers mixed up, you will immediately be put through to the right one.

Quick help thanks to the 110 and 112 numbers

These numbers also proved indispensable in recent violent acts such as the school student who went on a killing rampage in Bavaria's capital Munich at the end of July 2016, or the suicide attack in the Bavarian town of Ansbach shortly afterwards. “Just between 17:55 and 17:59, in other words in the first four minutes after the shots, our main Munich Control Center received 95 emergency calls, and 1,619 emergency calls by midnight,” commented Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann after the event. The emergency services were on the spot immediately. In Ansbach calls were made via the 112 number directly after the attack. “The first-aid service at the open-air music festival and the officer in charge were on the spot very quickly and able to start taking care of the injured,” explained Herrmann. In the last weeks and months numerous German towns have revised their security concepts and do everything that is humanly possible to ensure the safety of their citizens.

In situations that are not quite so urgent it is better to contact the police station or hospital in person. For a list of police precincts consult the website Polizei.de for example. There you will find links to the police websites for the individual German states. And you can find the hospital nearest to you via the portal german-hospital-directory.com.

An ever greater number of police stations in Germany are using social media to disseminate information. In emergency situations they provide fast and reliable information – sometimes even in several languages – on the immediate dangers and current situation. Anyone wishing to find out whether their local police station uses Facebook, Twitter and the like can do so by simply typing the word “Polizei” and the region or town into the search bar of the social media channel.

Numbers to call for worries

A free advice line is available for psychological emergencies. These first responders for emotional problems can be reached on 0800-111-0111 or 0800-111-0222.

Warning apps for smartphones

Once you’ve downloaded the corresponding apps you can have disaster warnings sent directly to your smartphone. In Germany the two applications (in German) are KATWARN and NINA. In addition to sirens, loudspeaker announcements or radio announcements KATWARN makes available important information giving warnings and advice on behavior. The app reports on dangerous situations and tells people how they should behave. With the Federal government’s emergency information and news app, which goes by the name of NINA, users receive important warnings on a variety of emergencies such as the diffusion of dangerous substances or major fires. Weather warnings by the German weather service and flood information from the responsible state agencies are also integrated into the app.

Support from the International Office

Prior to their stay in Germany students can apply to the International Office (IC) – in German often called “Akademisches Auslandsamt” (AAA) – of the German university for which they are heading – to be fully prepared for their stay in Germany or clear up any possible concerns they may have. Every German university has an International Office. Its employees not only help you plan your studies, but also on questions regarding visits to authorities, financial support, accommodation and other everyday challenges. “We are the first port of call for students, above all prior to their arrival and in their initial period in Germany, for help with everything,” explains Margarete Quast from the International Office at TU Dresden. Sometimes, Quast explains, even parents contact the IC with questions and worries. “It doesn’t matter if we receive an email, a phone-call or a personal visit: We do our best to answer all the questions, provide help or put people through to the right contact,” says Quast. “All our staff speak English, most even speak other languages, too.” For a list of the International Offices simply click the website of the German Academic Exchange Service or Deutsches Akademisches Austauschdienst (DAAD).

by Clara Krug