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Ukraine war: French public reassured that monthly sirens are tests

Civil defence sirens are tested across France on the first Wednesday each month, but do you know what the siren sounds like in the event of real danger?

Civil defence sirens

Pompiers de France thought siren tests might cause alarm due to war in Ukraine Pic: Hecos / Shutterstock

Don’t worry if you hear civil defence sirens today – they are routinely tested on the same day every month. 

The système d’alerte et d’information des populations (SAIP) is tested on the first Wednesday of every month throughout the country.

Read more: The monthly warning siren in France: What does it mean?

With the war in Ukraine dominating news headlines, however, it was feared the sound might cause alarm, so Pompiers de France have reassured the public.

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

In the event of real danger, the sound would be the same, but there would be three cycles, separated by a five-second gap.

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.

Read more: French city on alert after chemical plant blast

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 préfecture said.

In the case of a real incident, you should find shelter, either at home or in a public building, 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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