Civil Defence – Siren System

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In light of the recent siren test across Austria, and in trying to find information in English about civil defence for our members – it became clear that there is not too much official information available in English – our members seem to have also searched the site for information, so here is some brief information about the purpose of the siren test and when the sirens are used in Austria.

Austria uses a siren system to alert of impending civilian danger – for the most part the sirens remain silent, but nevertheless need regular testing. In Vienna, the testing of the sirens might be the only time you ever hear the sirens going off. However, in Austria’s more rural areas, in particular where the local fire service is staffed by volunteers (Freiwillige Feuerwehr)  the sirens are used also to muster the members of the voluntary fire brigade to the fire station if there is a fire. Since fire fighting in rural areas is so dependent on the sirens, there is a weekly siren test in rural areas at 12pm on Saturdays. They are also used to signal potential natural disasters – e.g. severe flooding, gas or chemical leaks – in rural parts of Austria.

The annual national siren test is held at 12pm on the first Saturday in October. The whole range of alarm signals (with exception of the fire brigade alarm) is sounded as a system test („Zivilschutz-Probealarm“).

In the actual event of a siren sounding, there are three different tones to listen out for:

  • Warning tone: 3 minutes constant pitch tone
  • Danger tone: 1 minute ascending and descending tone (sweeping tone)
  • All Clear: 1 minute constant tone

The test signal in rural areas is a 15 second sweeping tone, with the fire brigade muster signal being the sweeping tone repeated three times (with a brief interval between each fifteen second tone).

If the sirens go off (other than the test signal) should turn on their radios (Ö2) or TVs (ORF2) with instructions being given in this way. The website (German only) of the Zivilschutzverband has samples of what the sirens sound like.