Emergencies: Things to Bear in Mind in the Ruhr Area

Reading time: 5 min

In the Ruhr area, there’s no need to worry about the kind of storm surges found on the coast or the avalanches that occur in the Alps. Still, the Ruhr region is large and densely populated and has its own distinctive characteristics. These are matters you should keep in mind and check for when making yourself #readydoneright.

The Ruhr valley is a beautiful area with its big artificial lakes, its green forests, and rivers like the Ruhr. But the region is still home to plenty of industrial activity, not to mention the area’s mining legacy. Any industrial location as prolific as the Ruhr valley can also experience major industrial fires or chemical accidents.

And just as in any other region, there are always risks from storms and heavy rainfall. Should the Ruhr, Lippe, or Emscher burst their banks, adjacent municipalities can be flooded and you might find your own basement underwater. During a hot, dry summer, the northern Ruhr valley in particular is at increased risk of forest fires. Equally, construction work is still unearthing bombs left over from the Second World War and needing to be defused.

Extreme Weather Events in the Ruhr Valley

In July 2021, low-pressure area Bernd brought exceptionally heavy rain and storms to western Germany. In the Ruhr valley, the peak water levels of the Emscher and Ruhr rose to historic highs, as did those of many other North Rhine-Westphalian rivers. Luckily, the region did not suffer the major catastrophe experienced by the Ahr valley in Rhineland-Palatinate and parts of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Experts predict that floods like those in 2021 are going to become ever more likely as a result of climate change. And in any case, heavy rainfall can happen anywhere. In August 2022, for example, Dortmund Hauptbahnhof was incapacitated for a whole day on account of a waterlogged signal box.

But heavy rain does not rule out a drought. During the same month, August 2022, 2,500 square meters of forest caught fire in Witten. Meanwhile, in Haltern am See, the fire department had to call on 80 emergency personnel to put out a forest fire covering 10,000 square meters near the banks of the Silbersee III lake.

For some time now, local fire departments have been gearing up ever more intensely for droughts and the accompanying forest fires. Forest statistics for North Rhine-Westphalia from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture show that between 2018 and 2021, 135 hectares were consumed by fire – the same surface area as in the whole of the past 16 years.

One thing is clear: because of climate change, we in the Ruhr valley – just like everywhere else across the globe – will have to deal with more and more extreme weather situations. It is therefore advisable and prudent to have a clear picture of what potential dangers might arise where you live. Do you live near a body of water, for example? Or a forest? Have you considered whether you might be affected by a flood or a forest fire, and in what way?

To find out how to safeguard your house or apartment against extreme weather conditions, click here.

#readydoneright in a Clean, Green Industrial Region

Along with all its natural scenery, the Ruhr valley is also a highly productive industrial region. For example, Marl Chemical Park in the district of Recklinghausen is one of the largest chemical sites in the world. In early April 2023 a fire occurred in the acid plant there, though luckily for local residents, no resulting air pollution was detected.

When a fire in Dortmund’s industrial region released clouds of chlorine into the air, one way that residents learned of this was via the NINA warning app, which also advised them to keep windows and doors of buildings in the nearby area closed.

In May 2021, a major deployment by the fire department was required as a result of a massive fire in the chemical plant in Mülheim an der Ruhr, with an associated explosion risk. During the firefighting operation, it was necessary to close off the surrounding streets within a substantial radius. People in the area learned of this from the radio or from the emergency personnel dealing with the closures.

These examples demonstrate the importance of knowing how to keep yourself up to date, and hence in a position to take any necessary action, during an emergency. To learn more, click here.

A Few Simple Steps to Make Sure You’re Well Prepared

In the event of major forest fires, industrial accidents or bomb disposal operations, you may possibly be prohibited from leaving your home for a while. Then again, you could be evacuated. You can easily prepare for such situations.

  1. Build up a stockpile of food supplies. To find out what you should bear in mind, click here.

  2. Make sure your home medical kit is ready to use in the event of an emergency. For key points to consider, click here.

  3. In the event of a compulsory evacuation, it makes sense to have a folder of important documents ready to hand. For more information, click here.

  4. Among the other potential consequences of a forest fire or a major industrial accident are power or heating outages. Here too, you can be prepared. To find out how, click here.

We have also compiled other handy information: