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Why people in France should not worry if they hear sirens at midday

Due to the Ukraine conflict, authorities are reminding people that civil defence sirens are always tested on the first Wednesday of every month. Here’s how to tell the difference between a test and a real alert

The siren on Castle Hill, Nice Pic: Konstantin Gushcha / Shutterstock

Civil defence sirens will be tested around France today (Wednesday, March 2) around midday, and people should not worry if they hear them. 

The Système d’alerte et d’information des populations (SAIP) is tested on the first Wednesday of every month but with scenes from the conflict in Ukraine currently dominating the news, the sound of the sirens may cause alarm. 

Pompiers de France have anticipated this with a tweet reminding people that departmental prefectures will be carrying out their usual tests today.

Test sirens only include one one-minute-and-41-second cycle, with the sound rising and falling. 

If there were a real danger, the sound would be the same, but there would be three cycles, separated by a five-second gap, and the end of the alert would be signalled by a further 30-second-long sound. 

Civil defence sirens are designed to warn the population of a natural disaster or attack. For example, sirens sounded in Rouen during the Lubrizol factory fire in 2019.

The monthly tests serve both to check that the sirens are working correctly and to “remind users of the behaviour to adopt in the event of a real crisis,” Bouches-du-Rhône’s prefecture said.

In the case of a real incident, when they hear the noise people must find shelter, either at home or in a public building, but preferably somewhere without windows.

“Stop any air conditioning, heating or ventilation system” and “listen to the radio,” where further instructions would be issued. 

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