Siren Policy Page

Map of counties in Minnesota with Siren Policies

Siren Basics

Outdoor Warning Sirens exist to warn you to take immediate life-saving action. Sirens are often your LAST official warning, coming only minutes before a violent storm hits.

You should understand that Outdoor Warning Sirens warn people who are OUTSIDE that there is immediate danger.  You must use other ways to get warning when you are inside structures. A good indoor alert system is a NOAA Weather Radio.

When you hear Outdoor Warning Sirens, it means that you should:

  1. GET INSIDE
  2. GET INFORMATION

GET INSIDE means find a sturdy shelter immediately. Go to the lowest level. Find a small room far away from outside windows. Get into a bathtub or other protective place like under a sturdy workbench. Protect your head with a helmet if you can.

GET INFORMATION means having a battery powered radio with you in your shelter. Special NOAA Weather Radios provide very accurate information.  Commercial broadcast stations such as WCCO AM (830) and KNOW FM (91.1) and local TV stations also provide vital information.

Tests

At 1:00 PM on the first Wednesday of each month many counties test the sirens with full sound. This is a good time to have a simple emergency drill at your work, school or residence. When you hear a siren test, at least take a moment to think about what you would do in an actual emergency at that moment.

Siren Tones

There are two different tones used by Outdoor Warning Sirens:

  • Attack: The signal for enemy attack is a rising and falling tone heard for 3 minutes.
  • Civil Emergency: The signal for a civil emergency (such as a tornado) is a steady wail heard for at least 3 minutes

Remember: Many sirens rotate when they sound. Do not confuse increasing and decreasing volume with rising and falling tone.

History

Many Outdoor Warning Sirens were originally installed in the 1950’s for warning of enemy attack during the Cold War. The first civilian use of these sirens in the Twin Cities was during the 1965 Tornado Outbreak.

Siren Policies

Siren Location

Anoka County

The outdoor warning sirens for Anoka county will sound for Tornado Warnings (National Weather Service issued), confirmed tornadoes (without warnings) from public safety sources, or by request of City/Township Emergency Manager’s request (to alert people at outdoor events about incoming weather-high winds, etc).

 
Brown County

The outdoor warning sirens for Brown County will sound for tornado warnings or winds over 60 mph.

 
Carver County

The outdoor warning sirens for Carver County will sound when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for any specific area within Carver County, when the National Weather Service indicates extreme wind speeds of 70 miles per hour or more, or when a city or county public safety official requests activation due to imminent danger to life and/or property. In this situation, Carver County will notify the National Weather Service Office in Chanhassen. This last situation might be a situation where a city is having a large event with large crowds (or County Fair) and the city/county public safety official requests the sirens in that area to be activated. When the outdoor warning sirens are activated, they are only activated in the areas/cities listed in the warning polygon that is provided by the National Weather Service as well as cities possibly in the storm’s path. You can find out additional information on the Carver County website here: 

Carver County Website
Chisago County

The outdoor warning sirens for Chisago county will sounds county-wide when there is a severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service.

 
 
Dakota County

Dakota County will sound the outdoor warning sirens for tornado warnings, or wind speeds expected to meet or exceed 70 mph. You can find additional information on the Dakota County website here: 

Dakota County Website
Goodhue County

The Goodhue County outdoor warning sirens will be sounds for tornado warnings, wind speeds of 70mph or higher, and/or in the 10 mile EPZ for the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant in the unlikely event of something happening at the plant. In Cannon Falls, there are sirens that would be activated using a different tone than the regular sirens sound and also there are voice scripted messages that would be used to alert the public that there is a potential dam failure at Byllesby Dam.

 
Hennepin County

The outdoor warning sirens in Hennepin County will be activated for tornado warnings, severe winds at or exceeding 70 mph, or other situations when people should shelter in place. When the outdoor warning sirens are activated, they are only activated in the areas/cities listed in the warning polygon that is provided by the National Weather Service. You can find out additional information on the Hennepin County website here: Hennepin County Website

 
 
Hennepin County Test details
Isanti County County Policy is not available at this time.
Kandiyohi County County Policy is not available at this time.
Le Sueur County County Policy is not available at this time.
McLeod County

The Mcleod County outdoor warning sirens will sounds when a tornado warning is issued, winds in excess of 70 mph or greater, and other weather events where emergency responders request their city outdoor warning sirens to be activated.

 
 
Meeker County

The Meeker County outdoor warning sirens will sounds when a tornado warning is issued or if a SkyWarn trained observer has a visual sighting of a tornado or funnel cloud. Additional information can be found on the Meeker County website here: Meeker County Website

 
 
Nicollet County County Policy is not available at this time.
Pierce County WI County Policy is not available at this time.
Polk County WI

The outdoor warning sirens in Polk County are sounded by the City or Village. Sirens will be sounded for tornado warnings in all cities or villages with sirens also being activated for severe thunderstorms warnings in St. Croix Falls and the Village of Balsam Lake.

 
 
Ramsey County

The Ramsey County outdoor warning sirens will sound when there is a severe thunderstorm with wind speeds of 70 mph or greater, a tornado warning, reports from the responders or the public of a tornado, or any other hazard that presents an immediate life safety issued to persons outdoors as determined by and requested through the incident commander. The county will also conduct an audible test of the siren system every 1st Wednesday of the month year round, as well as participate in the siren tests for the annual tornado drill day in April. Additional information can be found on the Ramsey County website here: Ramsey County Website

 
 
Redwood County County Policy is not available at this time.
Renville County

The Renville County outdoor warning sirens are activated for tornado warnings initiated by the National Weather Service and/or when a trained spotter identifies an actual or potential tornado. Sirens will also be sounded if strong winds with a history of damage are imminent.

 
 
Rice County

Rice County activates the sirens for weather related events for tornadoes and 70+ mph winds. The sirens would also activate a different tone for ‘civil emergency’ such as a dangerous hazardous chemical incident.

 
 
Scott County

The Scott County outdoor warning sirens will sound for a tornado warning, trained member of spotter team or member of public safety identifies tornado on the group, wind speeds are measured above 70mph, or at the discretion f emergency management or a member of a Scott County police or fire member (this allows Scott County to sound the sirens for non-weather events if needed, or for a city FD or PD to sound the sirens if they deem the weather situation in their area calls for it.

 
 
Sherburne County

Sirens in Sherburne County are sounded solely by the Sheriff’s Office Communications Center. The sirens would be sounded for a tornado warning issued by the National Weather service, and/or a tornado or funnel cloud reported by a trained spotter. Sirens would also be sounded for extreme winds where the sustained win speed estimates of at least 70 mph or greater are imminently forecasted or occurring. Lastly sirens could be used for other hazards where protection of life is needed. The sole purpose of outdoor warning sirens is for the protection of life. Sirens will be used to warn of immediate threats to life and limb such as hazardous materials leak or active security situation. They should nto sound when the predominant hazard is for property damage. They will not be used for any non-life safety purpose such as time of day notification, ‘noon siren’.

The four principles of Sherburn County’s outdoor warning sirens are:

  • Protection of life – the sole purpose of outdoor warning sirens is for the protection of life.
  • Public warning – In order to reduce public confusion, outdoor warning sirens should be sounded for public warning purposes only.
  • Take Shelter – The public should know that hearing an outdoor warning siren is a call to take immediate life-saving action. the desired individual action is to take shelter and get information.
  • All Hazards – Outdoor warning Sirens are not ‘Tornado Sirens.’ Sirens may be used for all types of hazards where emergency officials want people in a defined are the “get inside then get information.”
Sibley County

The Sibley County outdoor warning sirens will sound for a hazardous materials incident, nuclear attack, or weather emergency.

 
 
St Croix County WI

The St. Croix County outdoor warning sirens are activated by the St. Croix County Emergency Communications Center for a notice of severe weather, toxic chemical spill or hazardous materials alter, counter-terrorist information. Additional information can be found on the St. Croix website here: St. Corix County Website

 
 
Stearns County

The Stearns County outdoor warning sirens will activate for severe weather warnings with storm containing golf ball size hail or greater, wind speeds at or above 70 mph, or tornado warning. The County will activate the sirens for the municipalities if a storm is 10 miles from a municipality and heading in that direction and the municipality has not contacted Stearns County Dispatch to inform them that they will sound their own sirens.

 
 
Todd County County Policy is not available at this time.
Washington County

The Washington County outdoor warning sirens will sound when there is a tornado warning issued for Washington County, wind speeds at or exceeding 70 mph, or when a City or County Public Safety official requests activation due to imminent danger to life and/or property. In this situation, Washington County also notifies the national Weather Service Office in Chanhassen. Additional information can be found on the Washington County website here: Washington County Website

 
 
Wright County

The Wright County outdoor warning sirens will be activated based on requests from the national Weather Service, Law Enforcement, Fire/Rescue, EMS, Skywarn Spotters, other trained spotters, and reports of dangerous winds in excess of 70 mph, reports of funnels/tornadoes by trained personnel, or citizen reports of funnels/tornadoes that cannot be immediately verified by trained personnel. The cities, townships, or Excel Energy (nuclear) own the sirens and some cities use their sirens for other ‘non-warning’ reasons.