The proclamations of the Cold War are ringing in the midst of France. Here is the reason

Palika (CNN) – It was a typical Wednesday lunch in Paris, the streets trembled with tourists, the lands filled with tables, when the air was filled with howls of the air.

He cried in the city for about two minutes, until a crescendo on the train at noon before he died.

Another event. But the other thing, apart from a few confusing sights, was nothing to see.

In France, on the first Wednesday of every month, sirens – originally intended as Cold War warnings – are allowed to test signals in about 2,000 cities and towns. villages around the country.

Today they stand as warnings about natural or industrial disasters, but with the war in eastern Europe, French officials have issued statements reminding the French that they are only spinning. 1 minute 41 seconds of crying to heaven.

“Of course if it’s a war, if we see it on the news or something,” said Ali Karali, a tourist from London, as he heard the sound this month outside Notre Dame in Paris. .

“I thought it might be important, but if it was, people wouldn’t care,” he told CNN.

The excitement was not limited to the visitors.

“It’s not uncommon for the prefecture to receive phone calls from people, residents or visitors, who are worried about the siren,” said Matthieu Pianezze, head of the interdepartmental service of defense and civil defense in Yvelines, a western district of Paris.

“In fact, they were quickly confirmed by our team who were equipped with the right tools to respond to their concerns on the first Wednesday of the month.”

A French love story

Sirens were introduced in France after World War II to speak out against the ravages of the Cold War.

Sirens were introduced in France after World War II to speak out against the ravages of the Cold War.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The crickets heard today can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Since then, it has been the responsibility of the pilot to signal any event that could physically threaten the population.

One of the most common bells used at that time was called “tocsin,” which was found in churches and played by priests to alert the masses of danger.

In 1914, bells were rung for an hour in some cities to alert the many people who could start the First World War.

After World War II, sirens were taken and set up to sound air threats. Their dispatch was so quick during the Cold War that they could be heard throughout France.

In Maison-Laffitte, a town of about 23,000 residents in the western part of Paris, a large siren is on the town hall. Only the police could get the sound and town staff got the front row seats with his voice.

“Well done, don’t you think?” said Deputy Mayor Gino Necchi, at the sound of the bell.

The way they work is simple. “The prefecture’s delegates can raise it through an easy -to -access program,” Pianezze said. “This monthly test will allow us to see if our 47 sirens are‘ sick ’and need to be taken to the doctor.

Is it an old system?

paris kani-4

Stéphane Mollet, an engineer at Maison Laffitte’s city office, opened an office with smart appliances.


Many people have questioned the usefulness of this advertising system for years. “France chose to keep sirens because there is a heritage, a tradition behind it,” said geologist Johnny Douvinet of the Université d’Avignon.

As an expert in public intelligence systems, he explained that former President Charles de Gaulle was in charge of the current system and that “despite the various changes in the domestic industry, the the importance given to the siren as a wake -up call will continue to this day. ”

Not all people agree on their rights. Jacqueline Bon, 92, a teenager during World War II, was familiar with the siren’s sound. But always hearing them “doesn’t matter to me”, he said, even though it sounds like a hundred years ago.

“It was a big impact for me during the war because they sounded every time they got a bullet that we could go down to the ground for defense.” At this point, he thought they had lost their minds. “I don’t know the reason anymore,” he said.

Given today’s geopolitical events, Douvinet points out that the return of war in Europe is likely to appease the public’s perception of sirens.

“The war in Ukraine has shown that sirens may not be as useless as people think,” he said. “One thing is clear, when something happens, people want to be aware and alert.”

After Covid-19 and major events such as the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the 2024 Olympics are in the air, “the conference wants to double crisis and crisis management,” he said. and Yvelines the Pianezze civil administrator.

Symbol of the times

However, there are growing demands to change the system, which some say is outdated.

In 2019, a chemical plant caught fire one night in Rouen in northwestern France, and the town was covered in a cloud of black smoke. Sirens were chosen to be used as a second alarm, waking only two of them a few hours after the fire started, to tell people when they woke up. morning.

Now, it was through Twitter and the news that officials chose to speak.

Speaking to the government after the fire, Normandy Governor Pierre-André Durand said he thought the system was a big place for improvement, and he said, “We can’t navigating the problems of the 21st century with a 20th century tool. ”

Go digital

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The equipment that controls the alarm system.


Durand’s intentions could be fulfilled this June because the sirens are combined with a new system: France is experimenting with “amber alert” -style telephone calls.

If they are good, they should be rolled in the ground all summer long. Although similar systems are set up in Europe and the US, this technology is relatively new, according to Matthieu Pianezze, as it combines telephone advertising and local -based SMS technologies.

This means that everyone in a given area, regardless of their cell phone or phone number, will receive an alert from the authorities.

“There are probably tourists visiting the Yvelines area for example,” Pianezze said.

“Think of the Palace of Versailles, where there are a lot of tourists, they get to be alert. And in different languages ​​too.”

That is not the end of the old school. This is where they live and they only serve as a co -ordinator in cases of crisis.

“You can always get to great places,” Pianezze said. “You know the power of the siren and I think it’s important to be able to keep things established. I think we’re connected. Because it’s proven to be good, it’s not 100%sure, but it was a good thing to deal with trouble or war in France. ”

Culture in France has a special place, and sirens are no different.

So the next time you visit France and you find yourself in the habit of invading the air, stay calm and remember that this is probably just the beginning of the month.

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