Monday at Noon

Monday at noon in the Netherlands... If you've ever been in the Netherlands on Monday at noon, you know where this is going (for those of you who haven't and, therefore don't, prepare to be enlightened). Because if you've ever been in the Netherlands at noon, you'll have heard this:

And you'll probably have thought "Oh my God, the sky is falling!" No worries - it's just the Netherlands testing their air raid sirens. In Dutch, this is called a luchtalarm or, literally, air alarm. These babies were put into place during the Cold War and it was decided to keep them up and running in case of emergency situations. Luckily, this only happens once a month, on the first Monday.

If you hear this alarm on any other day or at any time other than noon on the first Monday of every month, go inside immediately, close all doors and windows, and tune into the television or radio to find out what is going on. Wait until the official announcement that the situation is safe before going outside or re-opening windows and doors. These announcements can be found via any one of the channels and radio stations linked just above or by going to this site and entering your postcode in the context box for information on your region.

The vast majority of the information given on the site Denk Vooruit (Think Ahead) is in Dutch, but they do have an English page here. And here's a handy-dandy reference card in English in case of an emergency. A Touch of Dutch also lists some important things to remember in case of emergencies of this magnitude.

Like a friend of mine from the US pointed out, let's just hope nothing cataclysmic happens on the first Monday of any given month at noon!

The first time I heard the sirens... well, I didn't. I was babysitting the first Monday in January 2009 and when I got home, my husband asked if I heard the sirens and got scared.

"What sirens?"
"The sirens that went off today at noon."
"You didn't hear the sirens??"
"Uh, no."
"How did you not hear the sirens?"
I think he was a bit disappointed that I ended up being oblivious to it as opposed to doing what most expats do and flip out. Had I heard them, I certainly would have! To this day I have no idea what it was that had me so preoccupied that I wasn't able to hear them - they're LOUD.

Have you had the pleasure of being in the Netherlands at noon on the first Monday of the month? What was your reaction? If you'd like to take any visitors or new expats for a ride, check out some of these hilarious interpretations of what these sirens really mean from Invader Stu.