Swiss deaf protest against emergency sirens

Deaf protest in Bern, Switzerland

The Swiss Federation for the Deaf staged protests in four cities in Switzerland this week as their government carried out the annual testing of the country’s 7,200 sirens, an emergency warning system that the federation finds “discriminatory”.

Protests were held in Lausanne, Basel, Bern and Lugano in order to raise the public’s awareness of the issue, the federation said in a statement reported by news agencies.

Deaf people “continue to risk their lives because they are excluded from alarm systems warning of potential catastrophe and can’t listen to subsequent information on the radio”, it said.

The current system, in place since World War Two, allows the authorities to warn the population of impending disaster using a network of sirens across the country.

When the alarms sound, people are advised to listen to the radio for information on what to do.

Federation spokeswoman Sandrine Burger said the government should be able to protect all the population in case of disaster, but that was currently not the case. “We demand a system that’s accessible to everyone,” she said.