Why sirens go off in Slovakia on some Fridays

Here's what the public warning signals mean.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: TASR)

Have you ever wondered why on some Fridays a siren blares around the place where you live?

If it's Friday noon, you have no reason to be alarmed. The Interior Ministry conducts a regular siren test at 12:00 every second Friday of the month. For the test, the sirens sound off for two minutes.

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If there is an unscheduled test of the sirens, the local authorities and the media usually inform the public ahead of time.

The alarm system is never tested at night or during the weekends.

The public warning system and its differences

The public warning system belongs to the most important tools of civil defence. The respective authorities use various warning signals sent out through sirens. Commonly, these are followed by information announced via mass media, including the radio, television, and announcement speakers (mostly in smaller municipalities).

These warning signals provide information to all residents or alert them about potential danger. The sound of sirens could also be transmitting information about extraordinary circumstances that could endanger the lives or health of people, their property and the environment.

The tone and length of each signal determine the nature of the warning. People should follow the instructions of the respective authorities and, if possible, leave the endangered areas and seek shelter.

The additional information that follows the warning signal usually contains the day and time at which the potential danger starts and ends, the source and type of endangerment, and the size of the afflicted area. It also contains instructions people should follow.

What to do when an alarm sounds

First, seek shelter. If you are outside of a building, enter the nearest building (the ministry suggests asking the owners for permission to seek temporary shelter in their building).

If at home, everyone in your household should gather together but not leave. If you have children at school, do not try to collect them as they will be taken care of there.

If travelling by car, park it, if possible, and look for the nearest shelter, unless the alarm warns of a flood.

Second, close all windows and doors, as well as ventilation spaces, and turn off air conditioners. Close gaps with tape or rags in order to increase safety.

Follow the media for more information. The Interior Ministry suggests turning on the radio or television. Make phone calls only in the case of an emergency to prevent over-stressing the service, and avoid calling emergency numbers (for example 112).

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