April 6, 2022

Basel Switzerland Switches It Up for Fire Engine Siren-April Fool’s Joke on Citizens

Why do fire engine horns sound the way they do? Since World War Two electric sirens have been used for emergency vehicles and before that the sound was created by being hand cranked. This article describes the industry perspective on sirens, and in the United States the sound and tone of sirens are regulated by state regulation.

In Canada each province regulates emergency vehicles and the sounding of sirens.

But why do all sirens sound the same? That was the question the City of Basel asked in an April 1st post that approved  a new siren sound or “martinshorn” for their fire emergency trucks. The sound agreed upon was the city’s hymn composed in 1806, “Z Basel am mym Rhy”.  After a “lengthy approval” process the new sirens have been installed.

You can hear the new Basel fire siren below, and read the lyrics of this city’s two century old song here.

And since this was on posted on April 1st-yes, it was an April Fools joke. Apparently city hall is still getting calls, with citizens wanting to hear the new sirens.



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  1. As someone who has lived in several large cities (e.g. Johannesburg, London, Paris, Toronto, etc.), the question I’ve always had is why fire engine, ambulance and police car sirens are so terribly loud here in BC, compared to those you hear in most European cities? I’ve always felt they are unnecessarily loud and should be reduced in volume. Emergency vehicles in other cities get around just fine with lower decibel level sirens.

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