“What’s that siren?!”
The first Wednesday of every month, newcomers to the Czech Republic are invariably surprised to hear the sounds of an emergency siren emanating throughout the country, and often take to social media to ask if we’re under attack.
Of course, that’s just the monthly test of the Czech emergency warning system, which sounds off once a month to let residents know the system is indeed working, just in case the worst does happen.
The emergency sirens are not just a Czech thing, but also employed by many other European countries, intended to warn citizens of natural disasters, attacks, or other threats. But might they soon become a thing of the past?
Following terrorist attacks in Westminster and Paris, where unofficial and inaccurate information may have risked lives, EU officials voted last week in favor of a Reverse 112 system that will allow officials to send residents in affected areas of a threat information about what to do via text messages.
The reverse 112 system is intended to replace the current emergency sirens used in the Czech Republic and other European countries, which may be less effective at quickly delivering clear and concise info in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist threat.
Similar systems are in place in other countries worldwide, include the USA, Russia, China, Japan, and elsewhere.
When the EU will implement the mobile warning system, and if it will replace the current emergency sirens, isn’t clear. According to the Fire Brigade of the Czech Republic, however, the old system will not become obsolete.
“Warning the population of the Czech Republic by means of SMS messages is considered to be complementary to the current unified alert and notification system, due to the technical nature of mobile networks that can face failures in the event of a major crisis,” said Fire Brigade spokesperson Nicole Zaoralova.
Of course, the mobile warning system isn’t foolproof, either; earlier this year, residents in Hawaii were warned of an incoming ballistic missile attack during a false alarm.