OUTDOOR WARNING SIRENS:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(This document was originally written by NOAA for the Quad Cities Area and re-published by Kane County Connects)
- What does it mean when I hear the outdoor warning sirens?
In short, it means that something life-threatening is happening and you should go indoors and get more information. The specific guidelines (tornado, hail, wind, etc.) for sounding sirens varies by jurisdiction, so check with your local community [in Maple Park’s case, it would be the Maple Park & Countryside Fire Protection District] to find out the specifics if you are interested.
- What should I do when I hear the outdoor warning sirens?
When the sirens are heard, go inside and tune to your local media to get more information.
- Why can’t I hear the outdoor warning sirens in my house?
Sirens are an outdoor warning system designed only to alert those who are outside that something dangerous is approaching.
- How can I get alerts when I’m at work or in my house?
For alerts indoors, every home and business should have a NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards. NOAA Weather Radio is like a smoke detector for severe weather, and it can wake you up when a warning is issued for your area so you can take appropriate action.
- When are outdoor warning sirens tested?
Sirens are tested according to local community or state policies. In the Quad Cities, this is on the first Tuesday of each month. Check with your local officials to get the specific day for your community [Maple Park is the first Tuesday of every month. The siren will only be sounded for tornado warnings where Maple Park is in listed as in the path of the warned storm. We sound it for three minutes during an actual tornado warning and for one minute for a test].
- Why don’t the outdoor warning sirens sound an all-clear signal?
People should be indoors and monitoring local media for updates on the storm.
- Why are the outdoor warning sirens sometimes sounded for hail and wind?
When thunderstorm winds exceed 70 mph, trees can be uprooted or snapped. Hail that is golf ball size or larger can break windows. Both these pose a direct risk to like if people are caught outdoors. An increasing number of communities (including the Quad Cities area) are incorporating warning sire policies [This includes Maple Park].
- How often can I expect the outdoor warning sirens to sound for severe weather?
On average, the Quad Cities area experience 5 storms each year that meet the common siren guidelines. You can find information about past storms and their frequency in your community through the National Climatic Data Center.
- Will outdoor warning sirens warn me of every dangerous storm?
The safest approach is to be proactive and use all the information available to protect yourself and your family from threatening weather. Nothing can replace common sense. If a storm is approaching, the lightning alone is a threat. Sirens are only one part of a warning system that includes preparation, NOAA Weather Radio, and local media.
- Who activates the outdoor warning sirens?
Sirens are typically activated by the city or county officials, usually a police or fire department, or emergency management personnel. Check with your city or county officials to learn more [In Maple Park, the Fire District activates the sirens].
- Does the National Weather Service recommend guidelines for sounding the outdoor warning sirens?
Nationally, no. However, the local NWS office in the Quad Cities partnered with local emergency managers to develop the recommended siren guidelines that have since been adopted by many local communities.
- Why does the Quad City area have a common guideline for sounding warning sirens?
When life-threatening weather is approaching, minutes or even seconds could make a difference. If people are unsure or confused about an alert, they may not respond quickly or appropriately. By adopting common outdoor warning system guidelines, confusion will be eliminated, response time will be reduced, and lives will be saved. Throughout the Quad City area, communities have adopted a common protocol for sounding their outdoor warning systems (sirens) [as has Maple Park]. Quad City Siren Guideline Page.
- Where can I get more information?
Check out these resources: