On Thursday, February 24, air raid sirens sounded in the Ukrainian cities of Kiev and Lviv.
It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine and sent missile strikes on some of the country’s biggest cities.
As videos of the deafening sounds flood social media, Americans wonder if their streets have sirens too.
Here’s everything you need to know…
What is an anti-aircraft siren?
An air raid siren, also known as a civil defense siren, warning siren, or bomb siren, is a loud sound used to warn people of danger.
Electronic sirens are appearing on the streets and were first installed during World War II to warn people of air raids and make them aware that they should take cover.
Since then, they have been used to raise awareness about nuclear attacks and extreme weather conditions like tornadoes.
The sirens of the American air raids in 2022
In 2022, there are bomb sirens in America, but they vary by state.
Many World War II air raid sirens were reused during the Cold War when there was a nuclear threat from Russia and still exist today.
For example, The Mercury News reported in 2017 that San Jose still had “at least 38 air raid sirens” around the city that would sound during an attack.
However, while some cities like Chicago and Dallas have maintained their siren infrastructure, others have not.
The number of bomb sirens in your area will vary greatly. However, the country invested more money in restoring sirens after 9/11.
Ultimately, individual states made their own choices about whether or not to maintain sirens.
In many areas, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is used instead. This is a nationwide alert system in the United States that sends out warning messages via radio and television.
Different sounds mean different things
In 1980, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established a set of guidelines for nationwide warning signals and sirens called the Outdoor Warning Systems Guide.
The guidelines, which are still in place in 2022, describe what each different sound means.
- Attack warning: 3-5 minute oscillating tone
An attack warning signal means that an attack or missile launch has been detected and people should immediately take protective action.
- Beware of alert warning: continuous signal for 3-5 minutes
This sound will typically be used for weather emergencies such as tornadoes, flash floods and tsunamis and means you need to turn on your TV and listen to essential information.
When the sound goes off, it means the danger has passed and you can resume your usual tasks.
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