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
Civil warning sirens. Austria has a comprehensive system that is tested frequently. (Photo by STAN HONDA / AFP)

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 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 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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REVEALED: Which Austrian states have the most foreign residents?

The number of international residents in Austria is growing, but where do they all live? We took a look at the data to find out more.

REVEALED: Which Austrian states have the most foreign residents?

Earlier this year, the Austrian population passed the nine million mark for the first time – mostly due to immigration.

So who are the international residents in Austria? And where do they live?

Who is a foreigner in Austria?

Foreign nationals are defined by the Austrian Federal Government as people that do not have Austrian citizenship.

At the start of 2022, there were around 1.6 million foreigners living in Austria, according to data from Statista.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to Austrian citizenship by descent and how to apply for it?

Where do foreigners in Austria come from?

A recent report from Statistics Austria shows that German is the most common nationality among foreigners in Austria, with 218,347 Germans living in the country. 

This is followed by 140,454 Romanians, 121,643 Serbians and 117,944 Turkish people.

By comparison, there are just 11,225 British people living in Austria.

Where do most foreigners live in Austria?

Unsurprisingly, Vienna has the highest share of international residents in Austria.

Figures from the City of Vienna show that at the beginning of 2021, there were 805,039 foreigners living in the capital, which is almost 42 percent of the city’s population.

Serbians make up the biggest share of international residents in Vienna with 101,597 people. This is followed by 76,025 residents from Turkey, 64,182 people from Germany and 55,267 from Poland.

In the Viennese districts of Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus, Brigittenau and Favoriten, more than half of the population are of foreign origin.

READ MORE: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

What about the rest of Austria?

Outside of Vienna, the spread of foreigners is mostly concentrated in the state capitals.

For example, 26 percent of the population of Graz – Austria’s second largest city and the capital of Styria – are international residents. But throughout Styria, foreigners account for only 12 percent of all residents.

It’s a similar story in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria, where foreigners also make up 26 percent of the population. Statewide though, Upper Austria is only home to 214,401 international residents (around 14 percent of the population).

Vorarlberg – Austria’s most-Western province – is home to 76,200 foreigners, or 19 percent of the population.

In the state of Salzburg, 18.6 percent of the population are foreigners, with around 49,000 international residents living in the city of Salzburg. 

READ ALSO: Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

In Tyrol, 131,400 foreigners were registered in the province at the start of 2022. This represents 17 percent of the entire population. 

International residents make up just 14 percent (214,500 people) of the population of Lower Austria.

In Carinthia, 67,000 residents – or around 12 percent of the population – are foreigners. The entire population of Carinthia is around 565,000.

Burgenland is least populated by foreigners with just 10 percent of non-Austrians living in the province. However, Burgenland also has the smallest population in all of Austria.

This article was updated on October 18th 2022 to correct an error in the statistics for Upper Austria.