Siren alarm warning system explained

Have you ever wondered what the sirens sounding at 12 pm Saturdays actually mean? As Austria is one of few countries in having a country wide alarm system in case of civilian danger. Depending on the emergency, the 8,000 alarms can be activated centrally by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the federal provinces, or the local district alarm centers. In the cities such as Graz you’ll probably only notice them when they test on Saturdays. But in the countryside, you may well hear the sirens being used to alert member of the voluntary fire service to their fire station. They are also used to signal potential natural disasters – e.g. severe flooding, gas or chemical leaks.

The system is tested at 12 pm on every Saturday throughout Austria with a 15 second siren sound. Also every first Saturday in October, between 12 noon and 1 p.m., they test the full range of civil protection alarms. I’m writing this just after this year’s test as I was curious what do the different alarms actually mean and how are we supposed to respond? And here’s an English explanation.

siren alarm warning system signals explained

And speaking of emergencies, have you ever had trouble remembering all the emergency numbers in Austria? As in England we just call one number 999 and in the US 911 . There is an international European number you can always use- 112. But here’s the list and how to remember for Austria (as learnt by my son in school!).

Fire / Feuerwehr – 122 ( memory tip – fireman’s hoses for 22)

Police / Polizei – 133 (police handcuffs for 33)

Ambulance / Rettung – 144 (the chairs they transport you with to the ambulance – 44)

European wide/ Euronotruf 112

Mountain rescue / Bergrettung – 140

Emergency doctor / Ärztenotdient – 141 For use on weekends, holidays and evenings (7 pm – 7 am) if you can’t wait to see your normal doctor but it’s not serious enough for an ambulance. They can give advise, and if you can’t get to their office at Marburger Kai 51, 8010 Graz , they will send a doctor to your house.

Poison hotline / Vergiftungszentrale 01/406 43 43

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