When the emergency sirens go off nationwide tomorrow at noon, there’s no need to worry – the Germans aren’t invading again. Since 1994, the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) has tested the national siren warning system on the first Wednesday of May.
Designed to sound the alarm during a disaster or a larger accident threatening people or property, the national siren system consists of 1,078 sirens mounted on buildings or poles in cities and towns with populations of more than 1,000 citizens.
The rising and falling pitch of the sirens can be heard by 80 percent of the Danish population and mobile sirens can help alert people outside the range of the mounted sirens. They have an independent power supply and can function despite power outages.
The annual testing of the sirens not only ensures the system works, but is intended to ensure that the public becomes accustomed to the sound.
Room for pranks?
First a warning signal will be emitted. The signal consists of a tone that rises quickly and falls again slowly. The tone will be emitted four times and the signal will last 45 seconds. After about three minutes the warning signal is once again emitted.
The de-escalation signal will sound after yet another three minutes which means that the danger has subsided. The de-escalation signal consists of a long single tone that lasts for 45 seconds.
People with hearing deficiencies can sign up with DEMA and be warned via an sms.
While the sirens are a test tomorrow, it is important to know what the sirens mean and how to react, should a real disaster strike in the future. DEMA gives the following advice:
– Go inside, shut the doors and windows and turn off any ventilation systems.
– Await further information from DR or TV2, which will pass on any messages from the police or other authorities. DR and TV2 will also pass on information about the warning systems on their websites and social media pages.
– When the danger subsides, the sirens will emit a de-warning signal and authorities and media convey that the danger is over.
– Never call 112 or 114 (emergency numbers) during the sirens (test or real danger) because unnecessary calls will clog the emergency centre and block calls from people who really need emergency assistance.
It’s serious business indeed, but if you’re a little bit mischievous and creative, the siren testing opens up some opportunities for light shenanigans and tomfoolery, as an unfortunate Copenhagen Post intern discovered last year (see video below).