Interdisciplinary Key Research Area “BigWa”

Civil protection under societal change

Civil protection is undergoing far-reaching structural changes at the municipal, state, and federal levels. This societal change has not been recognized publicly nor investigated scientifically. In addition to the increase in longevity and the decrease in the birth rate, societal change also includes an increasingly heterogeneous society due to increased migration.

This changing societal structure poses new tasks for operative civil protection, since civil protection is largely carried out through volunteers from relief organizations, such as voluntary fire-fighters and the THW (Agency for Technical Relief), presently. However, this dedication has a waning tendency due to these structural and societal changes and requires increased conceptual and technological solutions.

Innovative IT-systems, such as networked alarm-systems, can contribute to securing communication and bundling emergency personnel in major incidents. To combat such declines in the number of volunteers in the different organizations, increasing them and training them has become an important responsibility. The extensive potential in our heterogeneous society can be used through promoting linguistic and (inter)cultural integration and inclusion.

Through interdisciplinary cooperation between the four disciplines Applied Social Sciences, Rescue Engineering, Communication Sciences and Informatics/Communication Technology it is possible to differentiate the connections between societal change and civil protection in their entire complexity. This interdisciplinary research approach enables an innovative change in perspective, which is characterized by these three approaches:

▪ The point of view is not limited to the professionals who work in civil protection, but is instead systematically expanded to include stakeholders in the various age groups in the population, upon the local stakeholders (e.g., city governments, business) and volunteers.
▪ The operating context is not limited to intervention in acute cases that require protection, but rather will assume a comprehensive and integrative process perspective, which refers to the continuum of prevention and intervention.
▪ A spatially differentiated point of view will be undertaken to suitably enable considering relevant differences between rural, peripheral, and urban regions as context variables.

To complete this, the interdisciplinary key research area will develop products for the following topics: Societal Structure and Governance, Emergency personnel and protection goals in civil protection and Innovative IT-Development.


Applicant: TH Köln
Funding: MIWF-Funding Program: FH STRUKTUR 2016, Ministerium für Innovation, Wissenschaft und Forschung, NRW
Funding period: from 01-01-2016 to at least 31-12-2019
Total budget: 360,000 €
Applicant contribution: 120,000 €
Assigned to societal challenges (according to MIWF):
▪ Security, Participation and Social Cohesion in Societal Change
▪ Health and Well-being in Demographic Change