Sirens to sound across Switzerland on February 1: What you need to know
If you start to hear sirens blaring, the first thing to say is don't panic, it could just be a test. For new arrivals to Switzerland, it's important to know that authorities set a single day a year when alarms and sirens are tested across the country, called a Sirenentest. Here’s all you need to know about the siren test in Switzerland in February 2023.
Alarms and sirens in Switzerland to be tested in February 2023
There are roughly 7.200 alarms and sirens in Switzerland located throughout the country, from villages in the mountains to the largest cities. The system is designed so that the whole country can be quickly informed of any national emergency that occurs.
To make sure the system works, the Swiss government runs a siren test on the first Wednesday of every February. While it can seem scary, especially for new arrivals, it’s important to say that there is no need to panic.
As part of preparing for the test, the public will be notified beforehand via posters in Swiss councils (Gemeinden), and via television, radio and press announcements. People with the AlertSwiss app will also be notified of the test via mobile phone.
Swiss siren test (Sirenentest) in 2023
In 2023, all alarms and sirens in Switzerland will be tested on February 1. At 1.30pm, the “general alert” signal will be sounded across the country - for reference, it sounds like a regular ascending and descending tone. The initial siren will last for one minute and will then be repeated again after two minutes of silence.
Where necessary, sirens will continue to be tested until 2pm, although most sirens will stop after the first two signals. For those near some Swiss lakes, rivers and hydroelectric dams, the special “water alert” signal will be tested between 2.15pm and 3pm on the same day. This signal consists of 12 low continuous tones lasting for 20 seconds, which is repeated at 10-second intervals.
Ukrainian refugees will be informed of the test ahead of time
In a statement, the Swiss Federal Council highlighted the fact that the test in 2023 is the first since tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens sought refuge in Switzerland after the Russian invasion, and that the experience could be traumatising if refugees are not informed beforehand.
While all Swiss cantons have been given the resources to inform all refugees about the test, if you know a refugee personally, make sure they know what is happening ahead of time.
What to do during a Swiss siren test
During the siren test itself, the general public is not instructed to do anything or take any protective measures, “but simply requested in advance to excuse the inconvenience caused by the noise of the sirens.” The next scheduled test will take place on February 7, 2024.
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