So you’re wondering why you’re hearing sirens in the Netherlands on a Monday morning. First of all, don’t worry — we’re not under attack.
Every first Monday of the month (as though we didn’t loath Mondays already) at 12:00 PM, the Netherlands tests its public warning sirens.
🚨 The monthly siren test goes on as usual despite current world affairs.
There are about 4,200 of them throughout the country. Initially used as an air raid alarm, the sirens have also become a warning sign for other disasters over the last couple of decades.
During the test, the siren sounds for one minute and 26 seconds without interruption. The only instances when you won’t hear it on the first Monday of the month is if that Monday is a national or religious holiday or Remembrance Day.
Unless you’ve actually lived through that one air raid in Rotterdam over 80 years ago, the siren has become something of a nostalgic tradition now for most Dutch people.
Is this the best way to test sirens in the Netherlands?
Very understandably, you might be wondering if there’s a better way to test these sirens than, well, blaring them every month and frightening the life out of any unsuspecting foreigner.
In fact, the sirens in the Netherlands sound so often because the government wants people to be aware of what they mean. You can imagine that if they only sounded once a year, people would get a lot more confused.
It is also important to test them regularly so that if an actual disaster happens, we know that they work.
NL-Alert: an additional warning system
NL-Alert is an additional system that warns and informs residents of the Netherlands about disasters.
The system sends a warning message accompanied by a piercing sound to your phone. The message tells you what’s going on, what your course of action should be, and where to find more information.
NL-Alert is used in life-threatening and dangerous situations, such as a terrorist attack, major fire, an epidemic or pandemic, or severe weather.
Here’s an example of an NL-Alert from the coronavirus pandemic:
This system also gets regularly tested. Unlike with the sirens, though, you will only receive a test message from NL-Alert twice a year — on the first Monday of June and December at 12 PM. It will look like this:
What if there’s an actual emergency?
In case of an actual emergency, you will hear the siren sound repeatedly. On top of that, there might also be an accompanying announcement from a PA system. You should follow the instructions of public authorities.
If you hear the siren sound at a different moment than the first Monday of the month at 12 PM, here’s what you should do:
- Go inside. If you’re on the move, find a building to go into.
- Leave your children at school: schools are prepared for these situations and will know better how to look after the kids than you in this situation.
- Close the doors and windows.
- Try to avoid making phone calls. If possible, go ahead and check online what’s happening.
- Keep an eye on NL-alert.
- Listen to the old-school radio channels. Here’s detailed information on how you can prepare for different emergency scenarios (in Dutch).
Congratulations, now you’re fully prepared when the sirens in the Netherlands are heard once again!
What did you think the sirens meant before this? Let us know in the comments below.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2016 and was fully updated for your reading pleasure in December 2023.