If you were in the Netherlands early this afternoon, then you likely heard a very very loud alarm. If you were around Dutchies at the time, then you likely were surprised by their lack of reaction to said alarm. Perhaps, if they were in a playful mood they maybe yelled something out along the lines of "The Germans are back!"or "Oh no, the Dutch supply of cheese ran out!" or maybe even "That's the clog alarm - put them on, it's law!" Of course, the reason locals in the Netherlands are unlikely to react in any meaningful way to the loud and angry-sounding alarm is because the sirens rang out on the first Monday of the month at noon, Yes, you guessed it, the alarm is a scheduled occurrence, and happens monthly to make sure all the nation-wide alarm systems (around 4200 of them) are in check. In case you missed it, the Dutch emergency sirens sound something like this:
The first time I heard the alarm, as luck would have it, I was home alone with no one to explain to me why the entire country was engulfed in sirens. I stuck my worried head out the window to find the streets deserted, the skies clear, and the streets heartwarmingly unflooded. Satisfied that no one was panicking but me, I went back to whatever it was I was doing and promptly forgot about the strange sirens. (What can I say, I'm a millenial with no attention span.) From then on the sirens have become a nice monthly reminder that my rent is due, and until recently I still have very little idea against what the sirens are supposed to be warning us.
The strange thing is, its not just us expats that have no idea what the nationwide alarm's is supposed to warn us against. Ask a Dutchie, and they will mumble something incoherent about air raids, floods and to close all doors and windows if the alarm goes off any time but 12:00 on every first Monday of the month. It wasn't until I stumbled on this website that provides a nice PDF document outlining exactly what the alarms are supposed to be warning us about that the extent of Dutch preparedness hit me. Turns out, the alarms warn against pretty much everything except a zombie apocalypse: major fire, terrorist attack, transportation disaster, epidemic, collapsing building, public disturbance, power/phone/gas/water outage, nuclear disaster, extreme weather, dangerous substance leak, and, naturally, flooding. All very much covered by this instructional brochure, along with what to do if you are confronted with any of them. All these alarms can also be activated at local, regional, and national levels.
Call it nostalgia, or call it paranoia, but the Dutch are very much prepared for any disaster that may befall their country. Unless of course it occurs precisely at noon on the first Monday of the month, in which case we are all very much screwed.
© 2013, Amsterdam City Tours Blog. All rights reserved. On republishing any part of this post, you must provide a link back to this original post