Swiss being Swiss, the government maintains a network of around 7,200 sirens across the country as a public warning system that would be used in case of a national emergency. That could mean a natural disaster such as major flooding, or an imminent threat to or breakdown of a nuclear power plant.
The sirens were originally established to warn of bomb threat during World War Two. In particular Switzerland feared that its dams could be bombed in the manner that Germany’s Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams were bombed by the allies in 1943. The system endured through the Cold War when Switzerland feared being caught in the crossfire of a nuclear attack and has been kept ever since.
The general alarm will be tested at 1.30pm for around half an hour. The water alarm test follows at 2.15pm in applicable areas. The first, indicating general disaster, is a continuous oscillating siren lasting around a minute. The second, is a series of 12 bursts of 20 seconds each at ten-second intervals to warn people who live beneath dams of impending water-related catastrophe.
Listen to the radio, follow instructions and tell your neighbours to do the same
This is what the sirens sounded like from our balcony in Lugano back in 2011. Some things never change!