Feb 07, 2024

What’s Up With Prague’s Emergency Sirens on Wednesdays?

On Wednesday 7 February 2024, a regular test of the sirens’ functionality took place throughout the Czech Republic.

On the first Wednesday of each month, at 12:00, sirens sound, emitting an uninterrupted tone test for 140 seconds.

History of the Warning System

The emergency warning system was put in place, not just in Prague, but all of Czechoslovakia (when it was still Czechoslovakia) during World War II. The sirens aim to protect citizens by ensuring that they will be notified of imminent or incurred danger.

At the time and during the Cold War, it was meant to warn citizens of activities that could endanger the lives of locals. Just little things like bombs, air raids, enemy gunfire on the streets, Nazi occupation, Russian invasions… you know the things that happen in a country when war is outside your door and not on TV.

This is the text in Czech and English:

Zkouška sirén, zkouška sirén, zkouška sirén. Za několik minut proběhne zkouška sirén. Zkouška sirén, zkouška sirén, zkouška sirén.“

„Test of sirens, test of sirens, test of sirens. Test of sirens will continue within several minutes. Test of sirens, test of sirens, test of sirens.“

Prague’s Emergency Sirens in Daily Life

Though seemingly archaic, the Czech Republic still uses these emergency sirens. The sirens go off in the event of a major disaster like an earthquake, a chemical plant accident, or other life-threatening incidents like war.

The sirens did not sound at noon during the floods in 2009 and 2013, or at a time when the country was also in a state of emergency and restrictions due to the spread of Covid-19. In such situations, the Fire Department cancels the test to avoid causing panic.

What does it sound like and when will you hear it?

The warning signal is a 140-second wailing tone. The sirens are emitted from hundreds of speakers that are scattered throughout the city.

What if you hear them at other times?

The emergency sirens can also be used to call firefighters. But in those cases, the tone will be interrupted at 25-second intervals or will last for only a minute. In rare cases like these, the signal is not meant to warn citizens at all, but to mobilize the firefighters in the area.

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