Dakota County cuts down on storm sirens

Because of what has been described as outdoor warning siren “fatigue,” city and county emergency managers in Dakota County, following a recommendation from the National Weather Service, have changed their policy on activating outdoor warning sirens.

In the past, outdoor warning sirens were activated during tornado warnings and any severe thunderstorm warnings.

The new policy continues to activate the outdoor warning sirens during tornado warnings, but requires a sustained wind speed criteria to sound the
sirens during a severe thunderstorm warning.  Effective immediately, outdoor warning sirens will sound when wind speed is expected to meet or exceed 70 miles per hour.  

If this policy had been used from 2010-14, the number of outdoor warning sirens used across Dakota
County—96—would have been reduced by 75 percent.

The National Weather Service made this recommendation based on more accurate weather forecasting and technology, as well as wind damage information.

Local police and fire can also call to have the outdoor warning sirens activated if they feel it is in the best interests of public safety, such as if they see a funnel cloud when no warnings are issued.  These situations are rare, however.

If people hear sirens, they should go inside and get more information from TV broadcasts, internet sources, radio, or smartphone and take appropriate action. Because the National Weather Service has advanced technology, warnings may be issued well ahead of a storm.  Even if weather doesn’t look bad at the moment,  the storm may be approaching.  Warnings should always be taken seriously.

For more information about the new outdoor warning policy, contact Dan Carlson, Dakota County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, at (651) 438-4703.

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