Concert of Claxons

Friday, September 18th, 2009

It goes off once a month (here in the Netherlands at 12:00 noon on each first Monday), sounding from somewhere in the distance. If we even happen to notice it, we pause a moment to remind ourselves that “it’s just that time of month” – no need to go take cover against some air attack or to try to find the nearest gasmask. It’s the air raid (or public emergency) siren, and it still makes up one element of the home-town environment for many of us. And in truth, it should not be retired any time soon, since we all still need it: launchable nuclear arsenals deployed within long-range bombers and on intercontinental ballistic missiles remain in the armories of a number of the world’s military powers, and then in addition few places in this world can count themselves immune from the possibility of devastating floods and/or earthquakes.

In actuality, though, these siren-systems are under threat: they cost too much, supposedly hundreds of millions of euros to maintain nationally. That datum comes from a recent examination of this issue in the Frankfurter Rundschau by Roland Knauer. Public authorities are increasingly shutting them down, in favor of setting up alternate warning systems for fire and civil defense officials employing TV, radio, and SMS. (more…)

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