Don't ignore outdoor warning sirens, weather experts say

  • Homes along Nutmeg Lane in Naperville were damaged from an overnight tornado.

    Homes along Nutmeg Lane in Naperville were damaged from an overnight tornado. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Updated 6/21/2021 8:23 PM

If you hear an outdoor warning siren, don't ignore it -- get indoors immediately.

That siren means something life-threatening is happening, the National Weather Service says. Whether it's a tornado, strong wind, hail or another emergency depends on the agency that controls the sirens going off. Check with your community leaders for specific details.


Sirens are designed to alert people outside that something dangerous is approaching. For indoor alerts, keep a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio handy.

Sirens typically are activated by local agencies such as police or fire departments or municipal staffers. There are no national guidelines or standards for activation.

Outdoor warning sirens don't sound every time a dangerous storm strikes. They are only one part of a warning system that also includes local media, according to the weather service.

Common sense is valuable, too. As a storm approaches, lightning alone is a reason to seek shelter, the service said.

Sirens do not give all-clear signals. They only warn of approaching danger.

Remember that in Illinois, outdoor warning sirens are tested at 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of every month.

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