Nationwide launch of emergency alert system NL-Alert

Today, Mr Opstelten (the Minister of Security and Justice) launched a new supplemental alert system for emergency situations, called NL-Alert. NL-Alert allows the authorities to inform people in the direct vicinity of an emergency situation, by sending a text message to their cell phones. The message will describe the situation and advise people what to do at that very moment. This way, more people will be reached and they will get better information. All cell phones in the relevant area will receive these messages automatically, provided that the phone is switched on, the NL-Alert channel has been activated and the telephone has reception. The messages are not sent by texting but by means of cell broadcasting, which can be compared to a radio signal. They are sent by way of the cell phone providers’ transmitter masts. As a result, NL-Alert will still be operating in the event of a network overload. It is not necessary to register and NL-Alert is free of charge. 

The Netherlands is the first country in the world to introduce this emergency alert system nationwide. As from today, NL-Alert will be available in all 25 safety regions of the Netherlands. The control room of the emergency services will send a message on an (imminent) disaster, such as major fires involving the release of toxic smoke, explosion hazards or flooding. Within seconds, cell phones in a specific area will pick up the message.

In order to inform the Dutch people on the new supplemental emergency alert system, a national public campaign will be launched: ‘NL-Alert. Immediate information in emergency situations’. At present, more than half of all cell phones will be able to pick up an NL-Alert message, which means that well over 11 million cell phones are already capable of receiving an NL-Alert. This number will increase over the years to come. An increasing number of handhelds are now put on the market with an automatic NL-Alert adjustment. Consequently, this new tool is a valuable addition to existing means of warning people, such as the siren, the emergency broadcasting stations and the website. NL-Alert will not be a replacement for any of these means. Please go to the website to see if your device is already fit to receive NL-alert messages. This website also gives instructions for adjusting the settings of your device for NL-Alert. A nationwide NL-Alert test message will be sent mid-February, enabling people to check whether their handheld has been properly set.