Every first Monday of the month, you’ll hear sirens at 12:00 (noon) for 1 minute and 26 seconds in whole Netherlands.
For many expats this alarm is very frightening. Please don’t worry. It is only a practice alarm (it’s called Waarschuwingsstelsel).
It has nothing to do with attacks from an enemy but it is a warning in case of a huge fire or an environmental disaster.
This kind of warning system was set up in response to the threat of attack from Germany in WWII, but after the war sirens were kept because of the Cold War. The different sirens can be operated separately from the regional fire departments and are owned by the Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations ).
If you hear the siren at any other given moment or if the siren goes on on a Monday – not at 12 o’clock – here is what you will need to do:
- Go inside. If you are outside, working or shopping, go inside as soon as possible, for example enter a shop or any other building.
- If you are in a car, leave your car and go into a building. In case this is not possible (e.g. you are on a highway), stay inside the car and close all windows and ventilation/air conditioning.
- Leave your children at school.
- Offer others the opportunity to hide with you.
- Close the windows and the doors. Also close other openings in your house and if possible turn the air conditioning off.
- Do not make phone calls unless absolutely necessary.
- Listen to the regional radio. The government will inform you via this channel what is going on and what you need to do.
- In case of a national emergency, listen to NPO Radio 1 or watch TV on channel NPO 1 (also known as Nederland 1). The frequency of channel NPO 1 depends on your location and your television provider. (cfr. from ACCESS-nl.org)
“You can find additional information on what to do in case of emergency and how you can prepare for it on the website of the Government of the Netherlands www.crisis.nl – Here you can download a PDF with handy information in English on what to do in various kinds of emergencies.” (cfr. ACCESS-nl.org)
I would advise to install the app http://www.crisis.nl/nl-alert on your smartphone.
UPDATE 2020: on the crisis.nl site they recommend to install the yazula app, through which you will receive the following notifications: “Through yazula you can receive news, general information and promotional offers from the direct area where you are located.
Police news, missing item or people reports, and Amber alerts are posted instantaneously and automatically. In that way you are always informed what is happening in your direct area from a security standpoint.
A number of municipalities and provinces in the Netherlands are now using Yazula after it’s recent launch. Westland Infra, which is a regional energy provider in the Netherlands, started using Yazula to send notifications on service interruptions.” – You can select the notifications you wish to receive through this app, read more about here.
You can also download the NL-Alert app to get notified about what is happening in your region.