Weather Sirens

Severe weather sirens may save your life.

Weather can change from blue skies to ominous clouds in an instant. Don't ignore warning sires.

Historical perspective

Siren alert systems were originally designed for civil defense purposes and are now used by local authorities to notify anyone outdoors about severe weather. Every community has a different siren use practice. In Illinois, sirens may sound for weather alerts, such as a tornado, hail, and extreme winds.

  • This means the storms are close and may affect those who can hear the alert. Once heard, people should be heading to a safe location such as a sturdy building or a vehicle if a building is not nearby.
  • When a siren sounds, it’s also a cue to turn on a radio or television for emergency updates.

Types of sirens

  • A weather alert is a steady siren signal for three to five minutes.
  • A civil defense alert will be more of a warbling up and down sound, much like an air raid siren.

In most communities, weather alerts are regulated and activated by local authorities such as police and fire departments or local emergency management personnel. They also test systems monthly. In Illinois, sirens are tested on the first Tuesday at 10 a.m.

New technology options give these agencies greater flexibility to operate and test their sirens from a safe remote or centralized location such as an emergency operations center.

The National Weather Service recommends knowing how local warning systems work, investing in a NOAA weather radio, and acting when severe weather strikes. To learn more about disaster preparation and recovery, explore Illinois Extension resources or visit the Illinois Emergency Management website.