City of Wheat Ridge Civil Defense Sirens Reach Finish Line


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As the City of Wheat Ridge moves to decommission its network of fifteen Emergency Notification sirens, I would like to provide a bit of context.

Generally referred to as Civil Defense Sirens, for those of us who grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s, the wail of these sirens was a weekly reminder that dangerous events in some far-off part of the world, could cause widespread destruction even in our quiet neighborhood.

During that time, our parents held fresh memories of World War II, even while the Cold War occupied daily newspaper headlines. Every Tuesday morning, our local civil defense sirens were tested with a full minute of that mournful wail. During that minute, teacher stopped teaching to remind us that was only a test, but if it were a real emergency, class, what should we do?

There was even a stretch during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963 when the weekly sirens meant the entire class was to quickly file into the hallway, stand quietly facing the wall and wait for the voice on the PA to tell us to return to our classrooms.

For my classmates and I, there was always something ominous and chilling when the sirens sounded during their weekly test. That sound meant serious business and fooling around was not tolerated.

Civil defense sirens have been employed across the U.S., and in countries around the world, for three-quarters of a century. For many years now, civil defense sirens have been used to warn of weather emergencies and other threats to a communities safety. They have been integrated with broadcast media and lately, text message or voice-alerts. Regular tests have become more infrequent so when the siren sounded chances were that something dangerous was headed this way.

Now, the civil defense sirens are going away, not just in Wheat Ridge but in many towns across Colorado. We are now asked to rely solely on our phones to warn us of a weather emergency or other impending calamity. 

To be sure, once the City of Wheat Ridge retires its emergency sirens, few people will miss them.

So, the next time you are in a restaurant and every cell phone in the room goes off at the same time, be grateful that we no longer have to listen to the ominous wailing of the emergency siren.

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