Every year, Switzerland tests its apocalyptic-sounding sirens on the first Wednesday of February. This year it was done on 1 February 2021 at 13:30. The same day Switzerland’s Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) announced that 99% of fixed sirens were functioning. Cantons and municipalities are required to fix or replace the 1% that failed the test.
Sirens were installed across the country starting in 1936 and testing was introduced in 1970, before becoming compulsory in 1988.
Switzerland has roughly 5,000 fixed sirens and 2,200 mobile ones. 600 are used for flood warnings. Fixed alarms can be activated centrally by cantonal police.
Outside of test times, when the sirens sound, you are required to listen to the radio, follow directions from the authorities and inform your neighbours. Informing neighbours is important because some may not hear the sirens, or may not understand the instructions.
In addition to the sirens, there are alert apps. The national Alertswiss app sends alerts, warnings and information on dangers and hazards directly to users smartphones. The free Alertswiss app is available for iOS and Android.
If you hear a flood siren, which has a distinctive deep sound lasting for 20 seconds repeated 12 times, then you should immediately leave the danger zone and follow the instructions of the authorities. Flood sirens are only used in risk zones near dams. Click here to hear a flood siren. Click here to hear a general siren.
The following advert, warning of the testing, features a sheep and a long list of Swiss icons.