The real purpose of tornado sirens

During severe weather season, it’s important to know what to do when you hear an outdoor warning siren, commonly called a tornado siren. We all know that these sirens mean that there is an urgent risk of potential tornadoes and dangerous thunderstorms. However, many people do not realize that tornado sirens are intended to alert people who are outdoors about potential tornadoes. In fact, tornado sirens are NOT meant to be heard indoors.

What to do when you hear a siren while outdoors

According to the National Weather Service, the sirens are an alert to observe conditions around you. When you hear a tornado siren, go indoors and immediately and get additional information about the storm from a local television station, weather radio or online.

When a siren stops sounding, it does not mean that the potential weather threat has passed. Sirens are generally active for about three minutes, not for the duration of a threat. Stay inside until the threat has passed and media or local officials indicate it is safe.

Tornado sirens while indoors

Even if you can hear a tornado siren inside during a test, do not rely on them as your sole notification source for dangerous weather. You might not be able to hear them over common household noises, like a vacuum, television, exhaust fan or running water.

You should always have multiple ways to get warnings. If severe weather is predicted overnight, make sure you have a weather radio or cell phone with audible alerts enabled.


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