Tomorrow, on Wednesday, the 5000 sirens in Switzerland are going to sound again. Fortunately, it is only a drill. Just as on the first Wednesday in February every year, there will be a test of the General Alert and Water Alert sirens. But in terms of civil defence tomorrow is special: for the first time it is possible to control all 5000 sirens remotely (with a few exceptions) using a new system – and Alpiq InTec’s contribution has been decisive.
POLYALERT: high-security remote control system for sirens
Background: Up until recently, the sirens were controlled over Swisscom’s old, cable-based Infranet system (SFI-457). In 2009, the Federal Council decreed that this should be replaced by modern, high-security, unbundled access technology. The Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP), which is responsible for this area, initiated the POLYALERT project (polyvalent population alert) and publicly invited tenders for the development, migration and operation of the new siren remote control system. As subcontractor to Atos AG, Alpiq InTec was tasked with carrying out the radio reception measurement in German-speaking Switzerland and with dismantling the existing installations and setting up the new remote control systems across the whole of Switzerland.
Alpiq InTec was the ideal partner for this large-scale project. Firstly, because Alpiq InTec electricians are experts. Secondly, because the group operates from around 90 branches in every part of Switzerland. The FOCP and Atos AG could rely on a partner operating throughout the country and whose local presence in every region meant that it could react with speed and flexibility.
40 storage facilities – up to 45 electricians on the job
The siren upgrade started in 2012 in Glarus, as the pilot canton; the last of the roughly 5000 sirens was equipped with the new remote control system in September 2015. The migration of so many installations represented a logistical challenge for Alpiq InTec: for over three years, as many as 45 electricians were working on the siren upgrade at peak times. In preparation, the fitters and project managers were given specialised training to provide them with the appropriate POLYALERT expertise. The logistics were also extremely demanding: working together with the cantons, over 40 decentralised storage facilities were set up – mainly in civil defence sites.
At the end of 2015, the POLYALERT project was successfully completed on schedule. Thanks to POLYALERT, the FOCP can now manage the remote control siren system throughout its life cycle. The sirens upgraded in the course of the project will guarantee that an alert can be sent out to the Swiss population for many years to come – even though we all hope that they will never have to do so for real.
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