Civil Defense sirens atop a pole on Branch Avenue. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


First came the spoken warning of a test, and then, the extended, ear-piercing blare.

During the chilliest part of the Cold War, the weekly tests of the Civil Defense air raid sirens mounted on utility poles across town served as a weekly reminder to Red Bank residents and visitors that the potential for nuclear catastrophe was real, imminent, and that they should be ready for it.

Three last three remaining sets of sirens are slated for removal. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

And what they should be ready to do was flee to fallout shelters or, if they had them, backyard underground bunkers, like this one in Red Bank.

For readers too young to remember the sirens, just think of those occasional amber alerts that suddenly turn your cellphone into the handheld version of a car alarm. Then multiply the volume by orders of magnitude sufficient to be heard miles away, and to rattle the windows of the nearest homes.

The sirens haven’t been used for at least 30 years, said Administrator Stanley Sickels, who recalled that they went off at 11 a.m. each Saturday, one hour before a similar test of the horns used by the volunteer fire department to signal to location of reported fires.

Mayor Pasquale Menna covered his ears at the memory of one going off at River Street school when he was a student there.

At its semimonthly meeting last Wednesday, the borough council approved a resolution authorizing the abandonment of the last three remaining sets of sirens, permitting their removal by electric utility JCP&L.

The horns are located at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Leroy Place; River Road and Throckmorton Avenue; and East Bergen Place and Branch Avenue.

That last one happens to be in front of the Branch Avenue home of Councilwoman Kathy Horgan, though her status as an elected official has nothing to do with the council’s action, Menna said.

“I never even noticed it until a friend was visiting and asked me what it is,” Horgan said. “But it is going to fall on my house” if not removed, she said.

One of the horn sets sits atop a pole that’s in  “precarious situation,” said Sickels, who said he would ask JCP&L to remove the pole.

Here’s the resolution.