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AUSTRIA EXPLAINED

What is Austrian National Day and why is it celebrated?

Austria celebrates its national holiday on October 26th. Aside from getting the day off work, how did it start and what is there to do on National Day?

The Austrian flag flies above the parliament building
(Photo by ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP)

What is Austrian National Day?

October 26th marks the Austrian National Day – the date has only been a public holiday since 1965. 

It was on this day in 1955 that Austria signed its so-called Declaration of Perpetual Neutrality.

It states: “For the purpose of the permanent assertion of its independence externally and for the purpose of the inviolability of its territory, Austria freely declares its perpetual neutrality. Austria will maintain and defend this with all means at its disposal.”

It includes a commitment that “Austria will not join any military alliances and will not permit the establishment of any foreign military bases on her territory”.

But what prompted it?

After the end of the Second World War, Austria was jointly occupied by the Allied forces of France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union. While Austrians welcomed the end of the war, over time they grew tired of the Allied occupation. 

The Austrian parliament had little control over major affairs, because the Allied Control Council was able to veto any political or legislative action by the elected parliament. That changed in 1955 when the Austrian State Treaty was signed, handing power of the country back over to Austria, and Austria committed to its “perpetual neutrality”.

From 1946 to 1954, Austria celebrated Liberation Day on April 13th, commemorating the end of the Second World War. 

(In normal times) what happens on Austrian National Day?

Other than the hoisting of what feels like 100 flags for every resident, the Federal Government celebrates the day with a number of events. 

The president addresses the nation in a TV address, as well as honouring the victims of the war resistance and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is also the day when new recruits of the Austrian Armed Forces are sworn in. 

These events will took place as usual in 2021, but other parts of the festivities were pared back due to pandemic restrictions. 

Many museums offer free or discounted entry on National Day.

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AUSTRIA EXPLAINED

Austria’s civil defence alarm: What you should know about the warning siren system

Austria will carry out its annual civil defence test alarm on Saturday, October 1st. Here's what you need to know about it.

Austria's civil defence alarm: What you should know about the warning siren system

It’s going to be loud, but don’t get scared: the alarm sirens will ring all over Austria this weekend as part of the country’s yearly alarm check when it tests the alert system.

Every year, on the first Saturday of October, thousands of sirens sound alarms all over Austria. For those who live outside of Vienna, that may not be particularly eventful, as sirens get tested more often than in the capital city.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s official emergency-warning phone app and do I need it?

However, the annual country-wide check also means that the federal government will sound all alarms in a 45-minute event to remind the population of the signals of warning and alert.

What happens during the civil protection test alarm?

When sirens are being tested, they ring for 15 seconds only – and this doesn’t happen everywhere in Austria. However, once a year, the tests take on a larger scale.

This Saturday, October 1st, all the sirens will be tested between 12 pm and 12:45 pm. In the Austria-wide event, they will sound alarms on four occasions so people can familiarise themselves with the different signals.

READ ALSO: The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

At around noon, the first test will start with a 15-second alarm. Then, at 12:15 pm, the warning signal, followed by the alarm signal at 12:30 pm and the “all clear” sign at 12:45 pm.

Additionally, the governments will test their app systems, including the KAT alert and the Stadt Wien app – so you should receive test notifications if you have any of these apps.

What is the Civil Protection System?

Austria has a comprehensive warning and alarm system with over 8,000 sirens (180 of them are in Vienna) spread throughout the country. It serves to alert the population in the “event of a disaster”, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

The federal government operates the system along with provincial governments. The signals can be triggered centrally by the Federal Warning Centre in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Provincial Warning Centres of the Federal Provinces, or the District Warning Centres, depending on the dangerous situation.

READ ALSO: Ten essential apps to download for living in Vienna

Different types of alarms mean different things:

  • TESTING (15 seconds continuous tone): A quick continuous tone to test if sirens are working correctly.
    What to do: don’t panic; this is only a test. You can check ORF on radio, TV or online to confirm this.

  • WARNING (3 minutes continuous tone): A constant continuous tone with a length of 3 minutes means “warning”. This signal is triggered when the population is warned of approaching danger.
    What to do: Switch on radio or TV on public broadcaster ORF, or check www.orf.at and follow the rules of conduct.

  • ALARM (1 minute rising and falling wailing tone): An ascending and descending wailing tone of at least 1-minute duration means “alarm” and alerts that the danger is imminent.
    What to do: Switch on radio or TV on public broadcaster ORF, or check www.orf.at and follow the rules of conduct. Look for protective areas or rooms.

  • ALL CLEAR (1-minute continuous tone): A constant continuous tone of 1 minute (only after the alarm signal) means “all clear”, i.e. end of danger.
    What to do: Continue to pay attention to the announcements on the radio, TV or ORF online, as there may be certain temporary restrictions.

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