Open secrets lie in places or things we think we know sometimes, and when it pops up at you, it hits like a train. “Where have I been all along?”, “how come I didn’t know this?”, we ask ourselves. Then move on to the satisfaction of knowing whatever it is.
It never occurred to me in my travels across Europe and a bit of knowledge I’d gathered in the last few years that a major alarm drill is carried out monthly throughout The Netherlands and many other European countries.. I spent some time previously in Germany and never heard any Siren In because, the “Warnämter” (warning authorities) were closed in the 1990s after the Cold War threat no longer existed and the ability to alert the public was considered unnecessary.
If you are hearing the Test Siren Drill called Waarschuwingsstelsel (Warning System) for the first time and go into a state of light panic, or crawl under your desk on instinct, you can be excused and probably laughed at by the those around, with jokes of invasion or the end of the world, It might even be Godzilla waddling its way through the North Sea towards Rotterdam… For a first timer and even some used to it, the sound of the Siren is creepy.
The loud sirens are tested at midday on the first Monday of every month except (rarely) on holidays, National Memorial Day or other special events, should be able to be heard no matter where one is located in all of The Netherlands. The test takes 1 minute and 26 seconds or a little more. It was a system adopted shortly after World War II in the late 1940s and 50s to alert citizens on Air Raid or foreign attacks, but over the decades, the Siren Drill serves more for cases of big fire emergencies, flooding, natural or industrial disasters.
If you hear this sound and it’s NOT midday on the first Monday of the month, it’s a warning to go inside, shut all doors, windows and turn on your TV or radio for updates. www.nederlandveilig.nl/noodsituaties/english/ can also be looked up for further information by non Dutch speaking people.
There is a network of the sirens of about 4200 (Some quote 3,800) located around the country and they look like this (picture below) and are called a Waspaal:
In March 2015 it was announced that due to high maintenance costs the sirens will be taken out of service by the end of 2017. The government is implementing a cell-broadcast system, NL-Alert, to replace the sirens. During initial tests of the cell-broadcast alert: 12% received the alert, 22% configured their phone to receive it, but did not, 26% did not configure their cellphone and 40% did not have a phone or mobile-operator supporting the system.
Below is a short video I made made, Monday 2nd January 2017:
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