Twin Cities Metro Area Siren Policy
August 14, 1997
KARE 11 TV
8811 Olson Memorial Highway
Minneapolis, MN 55427
Dear Mr. Barlow:
It has been a busy summer for severe weather! There have been several weather events that have resulted in activation of outdoor warning sirens. For the most part, weather warnings issued by the National Weather Service and public safety agencies together with detailed media coverage of storm events have been effective in keeping people safe. However, we are concerned about a couple of recent occasions where reporters covering a storm made statements wondering why sirens were or were not being sounded for a particular county. County emergency managers, warning point coordinators, and the National Weather Service have met to review recent severe weather alerts and our siren activation policies. This group affirmed the alerting procedures currently in place and found that warning points and the National Weather Service appear to be following them. Everyone agreed it is useful to periodically review this issue, and asked the Warning and Communications Committee of the Metropolitan Emergency Managers' Association to restate siren activation policy to the news media.
Outdoor warning sirens are activated by county or city warning points. Most often, this is done at the recommendation of the National Weather Service. However, counties and cities can and do activate sirens on their own if field personnel observe dangerous weather conditions occurring within their borders or if they anticipate such conditions from an approaching storm. When this happens, the alerting jurisdiction will notify the National Weather Service immediately so the reason for siren activation can be relayed over NOAA weather radio. During the last major storm, at least three counties are known to have activated sirens in advance of a National Weather Service warning.
There are two weather related criteria for siren activation: a tornado or funnel cloud sighting; or a severe thunderstorm with straight line winds in excess of 75 mph or potential thereof (Note: Dakota County activates sirens for all severe thunderstorm warnings--58 mph and over). While sirens are most often used for warnings of severe weather, they can also be used to warn of other hazards. An example would be an evacuation order for a neighborhood affected by a release of hazardous materials.
If you get reports of siren activation and you don't know the reason, we recommend you monitor NOAA Weather Radio or call the National Weather Service directly.
Scott A. Williams
Chair, Warning and Communications Committee,
Metropolitan Emergency Managers' Association
National Weather Service, Chanhassen
Metro Emergency Managers Association
WARNING AND COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE
6700 Portland Avenue
Richfield, MN 55423