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Civil Defense Sirens


After the atomic bomb was developed during World War II, and the United States began to realize the terrible power, people sought ways to address the threat of nuclear apocalypse – the end of the world as we know it.

Today, the civil defense film about Bert the Turtle (who's very alert) graces the Internet as his videos, now in the public domain, illustrate the "Duck and cover" slogan of the early 1950s. His mantra wouldn't actually help with the nuclear fallout, as we now know, but it was an attempt to educate the American people as to what to expect and how to survive a nuclear attack. As the U.S. proceeded into the cold war, it was a threat that seemed very real.

On this date in 1962, the Devils Lake World reported on a new siren to help alert residents to any such dangers. The siren had varying tones to alert for civil defense or for fires. The Devils Lake World reported that the siren would soon be tested; letting residents of the city become familiar with the warnings.

The fire alarm would sound first. It was scheduled to run for three minutes, alternating between high and low tones. Afterward, for five minutes, the civil defense alert would sound – described as a "high steady tone." Following that, the civil defense "take cover" signal would activate for another three minutes. The newspaper reported that this sound was "a dual high low tone which has a warbling effect," and would be used in the event of a tornado's approach.

The newspaper noted that if the civil defense alarm sounded, either "due to enemy attack or storms," the high tone would be sounded again for three minutes when the danger was over.

The siren was part of a larger picture in North Dakota's civil defense. This vibrant history also included intercontinental ballistic missile launch sites, one of which has been preserved for historical purposes. The Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site consists of the Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility and the November-33 Launch Facility.

The testing of the multi-toned siren for almost fifteen minutes, likely had a chilling effect for many, doing nothing to lessen the tensions building in the country. For others, it made for a lot of noise.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



Devils Lake World, May 23, 1962, p1, first section