05 March 2024, by Emily Proctor

The infamous monthly siren test, which takes place across the Netherlands on the first Monday of the month, will fall silent in 2025 according to new plans unveiled by the outgoing Dutch government. Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yesilgöz announced the plan in a letter to the Dutch house of representatives on March 1. 

NL-Alert mobile phone alert to replace siren system

The current air raid siren, also known as the Warning and Alarm System (WAS), has been used across the Netherlands to warn for emergencies such as industrial fires, flooding and other catastrophic events since 1998.  The 4.200 alarms can “in the best case scenario be heard by about 75 percent of people” , writes Yesilgöz, who states that the new mobile system, NL-Alert has several significant advantages. 

These advantages include the ability to reach a greater number of people via mobile phone, with the most recent test in December reaching 92 percent of the Netherlands’ population. The maintenance contracts for the WAS poles expire at the end of 2025. The outgoing minister therefore sees this as an opportunity to change the status quo, but stresses that in areas that are of higher risk, assumedly near places such as dams, or even along the coast, there will be other WAS systems in place.

Plans to remove air raid sirens criticised by some officials

While the minister herself is positive about the upcoming plans, there are some people across the country who are less happy about the scrapping of the sirens. Arjen Littooij, director of the Rotterdam-Rijnmond safety region told Dutch broadcaster NOS that the plans could mean many people missing out on potentially life-saving warnings and broadcasts. 

“I think that when there is a crisis, you should really be able to inform all citizens,” says Littooij on behalf of the Rotterdam-Rijnmond region. “And you do that on the one hand with an NL-Alert, and also with the sirens. We need both to be able to properly inform people”, Littooij said. 

Yesilgöz’s data shows that 92 percent of the Dutch population will be able to receive the alert, but Littooij argues that this means that too many people will still not be able to receive warnings of potential disasters. “That [statistic] means that 8 percent of people won’t [receive the alert],” concludes Littooij. “And if I translate that to this region [Rotterdam-Rijnmond], it means that 100,000 people will not be informed if only an NL Alert is sent.”

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