It honks on our roof tops, at least the high rooftops. Placed in strategic positions there are strange objects. It is part of our Swiss civil defence: a warning system. At appointed days during the year, at least twice, there is a horn outbreak. Not everyone doing their own thing, that would be pointless. If you are going to have an exercise, then everyone together.
We are warned by radio, even the television that the Swiss will be having an alarm exercise. The time generally appointed is after lunch, when you are settling down to a midday sleep. Just as you begin to hug your bed and get comfortable, the first rise in the sound level begins. It is not a simple honk, that would be too easy. It is a rise and fall, a siren. It echoes from the hills and dales, in the towns and even the villages. Every manufacturing plant has one, and even schools. In our little village, inhabitants approximately 1,000, not counting the cows and sheep, or cats and dogs we also have our warning siren or perhaps even two.
The whole exercise is to discover if the sirens are still working. There can be nothing worse than an attack from a foreign country and you are not prepared. And so the noise begins, an up and down of the musical scale, for at least five minutes. Perhaps even longer. It seems like an hour, but then I am exaggerating of course. You must always be prepared, but it is only an exercise.
If it would be the real thing then we all have our appointed places where we should take refuge. There are special reinforced rooms in cellars of large buildings for the safety of the population, and everyone should know where to go. Somehow, since moving into my little village 20 years ago, I never found out where to go, but we have some sort of room in the cellar which has a very heavey iron door. People sometimes store furniture there, but that would most likely be my place of refuge. You are completely protected, although there might be a danger of suffocation if you do not have the strength to open the door afterwards.
When Mr. Swiss was young and lovely (no longer young but still lovely) he was exempted from his duty as a Swiss soldier due to health problems, but he was still eligible for the civil defence. He learned how to rescue victims from burning buildings (although the buildings were not actually burning, it was just an exercise) and he attended classes to know where the safer places were for the common people. We were then living in the town, so I asked him where our safe place was. He said, with pride, I would be in the large building opposite. He would not be with me, as his position would be in the headquarters of all civil defence people. I told him to forget it, if we go, we go together. Yes, we swiss are prepared – let them come, although we are still not so sure who they are.
But there will be honks and sirens and the cows will moo. I hope I can take my cat with me.