France’s Wednesday warning sirens to sound at different time

They are one of the sounds that let you know you are in France, but the monthly warning siren tests will sound at a different time from now on. Here's what you need to know.

France's Wednesday warning sirens to sound at different time
Photo: Wayne77/Wikicommons
If you live in France, you will have heard — and no doubt have been startled by — the sound of sirens going off at midday on the dot on every first Wednesday of the month.
For those who have just moved to France the sound of blaring sirens can be quite a shock and will have had you thinking that an air raid is approaching.
And while you might be used to these siren tests if you've lived here for some time, from Wednesday November 7th depending on where you live in France you could well be hearing them at a different time. 
For example, from now on if you live in northern France, you will hear them at 11.45 am and if you live in the south, you'd better prepare your nerves for the new test time of 12.15 pm, with these changes set to remain in place indefinitely. 
However if you live in central France you will continue to hear the sirens go off at noon. 
So, what are these siren tests all about?
The alert system which is tested every month is part of the SAIP (Système d’Alerte et d’Information des Populations), a national warning system designed to alert the public if it is in danger.
The siren “can warn the population in a given area of imminent danger,” says the website of the interior ministry, adding that “this network, inherited from the WWII was initially designed to alert people of an air threat (conventional bombing or nuclear) and can also be used to cope with the rise of technological or natural risks”. 
While it can come as quite a shock if you're not used to them, the monthly test ensures the system is still working and you'll see them dotted around, particularly on the roofs of municipal buildings. 
In fact, some of the oldest are located on the roofs of churches and aren't automatic which means that on the first Wednesday of the month you could spot a municipal employee scrambling up to push the test button manually. 
Why is the test time being changed?
The idea behind the change is to prevent the new computer program running the tests from being overwhelmed by setting off France's 2,000 sirens all at once. 
To prevent too much surprise and worry among the population, some local authorities have already informed their residents. 
How would it sound if the real siren went off?
While the monthly test alarm lasts just one minute 41 seconds with punctuated silences, in the event of a real alert the signal is “a modulated sound, rising and falling with three sequences of one minute and 41 seconds separated by an interval of five seconds” says the interior ministry.
This end of the alert is then announced by a continuous signal of 30 seconds.
If you should ever hear the real alert people are advised to stay as safe as possible preferably in a room without windows, turn on the radio and wait for the instructions of the authorities.
What changes about life in France from November 2018

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What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.