Ukraine Siren Alerts: How a new online system updates Ukrainians about air raids
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The beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 was marked by the sound of air raid sirens in cities across the country. As the war has gone on, these sirens have become essential for notifying citizens so they can take shelter in the case of imminent air attacks. But the air raid siren system isn't infallible, and sirens can only be heard if people are within earshot of the speakers. To address these concerns, an Israeli student has created an online system that shows the various air raid alerts all around Ukraine.
When the Ukrainian military receives information about an imminent air attack on a specific locality, it sends that information to local authorities. The municipality then sounds the sirens over the loudspeakers and publishes the alert on its social media profiles.
But until now, there was no way to see all of those alerts in one place.
The system makes it possible for people outside of Ukraine to get a better idea of what is happening around the country, as well as keep an eye on their friends and family when communication is difficult.
'You’re able to see and really feel connected to your family there'
Bernard Moerdler, a student in Israel, created the system to help his Ukrainian girlfriend keep track of her family members who are still in the country.
There’s no real compelling way to alert people of sirens in or outside of Ukraine. The current system is area-specific and location-locked. So if you have family members there but you’re not physically there, you won’t really be able to see if sirens are sounding.
After living in Israel for some time, I've come to appreciate the system we have here, which is RedAlert. You're able to see multiple locations, a map and a lot more information. So I decided to forge ahead and attempt to make something similar.
It’s reassuring to be able to know exactly what’s going on when it happens because you’re able to see and really feel connected to your family there and the people you know.
'I started the project because I want to help people'
Moerdler used his experience in programming and software development to build the program from the ground up. He's hoping to expand the system to add features like location-specific SMS alerts and a website.
The notification system also serves a purpose for those inside Ukraine. When physical alert systems fall short, Moerdler's automated notifications can be essential.
I've heard from people in Ukraine, outside of Ukraine. One that stuck with me quite a bit is a guy who goes by the name of Chris, who's from Kyiv. He told me that he learnt about it from Twitter and was using the service because the area that he was in didn't physically have sirens.
So he was using UASA because it still gave alerts for his area, despite the fact that there are no physical sirens and he's able to notify his friends and family.
And he told me it's helped and saved his family. And that's just amazing to me. It's my goal. I started the project because I want to help people.
Since the system was launched, UASA has garnered nearly 10,000 followers on Twitter.