Do you depend on sirens to alert you to severe weather?

Minnesota’s emergency sirens operate with no system of central control or regulation. Today’s Question: Do you depend on sirens to alert you to severe weather?

  • Gerald Myking

    I find something amusing about our warning system. When a siren goes off, Minnesotans go outside looking for the tornado. We just don’t get too excited about the danger. Part of that is due to the “Cry wolf” reaction created by the limitations of the warning system. A tornado is spotted 30 miles away and we are told to seek shelter immediately. People get tired of that. When you consider there are over 4 million people in Minnesota and only a handful actually experience one it’s hard for anyone to take them to seriously.

  • Dianne

    Not usually. We have a NOAA weather radio that we rely on for watches and warnings.

  • Angie

    Whenever I hear a siren it definitely perks up my ears and causes me to check out the weather online or on the TV… but it doesn’t cause me to actually head for cover (which, I’m guessing, is largely the purpose).

  • Terri Nowicki

    I don’t depend only on the warning sirens. I mainly pay attention to the TV & online weather & radar. I do think the sirens are important, especially for folks who may not be aware of severe weather. I recently learned that there are different tones/sounds for the warning sirens. I can’t help but wonder why this information hasn’t been made more public.

  • Helen


    We take the siren sound as a real warning.

    TV weather reporters go on …and on …and on and it is confusing and annoying…..

    but, when we hear the siren, we know it IS serious for our neighborhood or particular location at that moment.

  • Anna

    When I first moved to St. Paul for college, I was hyper alert. No one told me that the sirens were tested on the first Wednesday of the month. The first time I heard the test sirens it was the most glorious September day, and I was certain that we were all about to die in some terrible attack. Overactive imagination, or what? Now I am so used to the sirens that I prefer to make my own judgment by looking at the sky. If things look serious, I turn on the TV or radio.

  • Philip

    Nope – I have a Droid (there’s an app for that).

  • Carrie

    No. They’re designed for people who are outside not inside. I don’t think a lot of people really understand that. Besides, I listen to MPR, so I know what’s coming anyway. : )

  • Steve the Cynic

    I can’t hear the siren over the noise of my air conditioner.

  • Melina

    We live 12 miles out of town. We can’t hear the sirens, therefore we have a weather radio, which works very well.

  • Gail B

    I live in a rural area–we have no sirens. We also have a wonerful windbreak, but it blocks our view of any storms headed our way. We know we have to pay attention to Mother Nature, and we know when to haul out the WeatherAlert radio.

    Gail B

    Hartland MN

  • Ruth Wohlers

    The T.V is usually OVER informative these days!! If I am in the south of the state I can certainly rely on any television stations telling me if there is a tornado or storm coming in the northern part of the state.


    Honestly I never experience true reality t.v. until the straight line winds of 70-80 mph two weeks ago. You saw it on t.v. you saw it outside…… was almost too much. But, extremely helpfull I saw the planes trying to descend from the clouds on t.v. before the storm hit then they flew over my home!!!

  • Steve

    Sirens most definitely alert me of bad weather when a radio is not available-it has probably saved my life in some situations. I was in a tornado back in the 60’s that had no sirens and if wasn’t for CCO radio i might have not made it through. So yes, yes, yes sirens are absolutely necessary and valuable for communities!

  • CHS

    I live within a block of the Ramsey and Dakota County line (on the St. Paul side) and living in this location makes the sirens absolutely worthless for severe weather notification. The closest siren to me is governed by Dakota County, and often goes off for things with no potential impact on my neighborhood. On top of that, Dakota County chooses to give storm warnings for all Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, talk about Peter crying wolf….

    I firmly believe the counties and local municipalities should be in control of the sirens, but I do think that for severe weather alerts a uniform standard needs to be applied. After the NWS started doing storm based warnings rather than county, it has gotten much better. Whether or not to activate the sirens though is still based on the discretion of the local authorities, which is often based on perceived liability rather than actual threat.

    Another important thing to remember about the sirens when talking about who controls them is that they aren’t tornado sirens, they are Civil Defense Sirens. The idea of having them may be a relic of the cold war, but it is important to remember that they do serve a vital purpose beyond just the weather.

  • Tony

    In my hometown, the siren generally only goes off for a tornado or funnel cloud within about 5 miles of town. Otherwise the siren never goes off for general severe thunderstorm warnings. A siren is reliable when you know something serious is close, but not like around Twin Cities where it seems to go off whenever there is a severe thunderstorm warning for the county and not just the localized area.

  • Mary

    Growing up in Minnesota you learn to keep an eye on the sky. I was taught in science class what the different clouds are and what they mean. I don’t depend on sirens, in the metro area they are rather useless. You have to ask yourself “what are they being sounded for this time?”

  • Kirk

    I live equi-distant from all points of Nowhere, so I depend on the radio (MPR for sure!) and the internet.

    I have wondered if some sort of warning system might be designed to alert people within certain ‘server’ locations.

    Detroit Lakes, MN has a system residents can sign up for which alerts one via phone call. I would assume when a call comes in the recipient would hear a recording with details of the danger. This seems an optimal way to go to me.

  • Matt

    Usually when I hear the sirens, I take the opportunity to start cross checking other sources for more information: radio, TV, internet, etc.

    I think they’re perfect for giving everyone a heads up that something is amiss.

    What I want to know is whether the sirens are also used for civil defense or other emergencies that can affect an entire city (gas line rupture, chemical train car derailment, terrorism, civil disobedience, zombies, etc).

  • Julie

    I’ve lived in St. Paul my entire life… The sirens usually tell me to turn on MPR, not make a break for the basement.

  • Andy

    I don’t live near a tornado siren, so rely on observations and the radio to keep me informed about severe weather.

  • Greg

    My ex-wife lives about 130′ from one of federal warning sirens. When the kids are over there – and it goes off – their 1st reaction is “FIND THE CAT” because it freaks her out and she starts “voiding”. I think they’re learning to watch for the cat acting funny – cause it knows when the pressure drops the “screaming” starts … but … they find it difficult hard to keep that sneaky cat in view all the time.

  • bsimon

    I live in Minneapolis; hearing the sirens means, to us: go inside & turn on the TV. Like Tony wrote, the sirens seem to get triggered when part of the county is under a severe t-tstorm or tornado warning. We typically hear sirens about an hour before the weather gets to us – if it ever gets to us.

  • George

    No, a few weeks ago the system in Rochester failed. Tax money is wasted on providing & maintaining these systems & if they don’t work, lawsuits result.

  • Tim Ecker

    People should not rely on the severe weather sirens to alert them of severe weather. This leads to a public relying on someone else to alert them of a dangerous situation. They should be aware of the possible severe weather before it occurs and then make smart decisions based on the information they can gather as the weather changes. Both radio and especially television do a very good job of keeping the public aware of the situation. Sirens alert you that a county is under a warning. It does not get down to the neighborhood level.

  • Michael

    The sirens were designed for a time when we weren’t as information rich. Now when the storms get cloudy, we can turn on the weather radio, look on the Internet or check the TV. A blaring siren “system” with no unification or standardization is simply useless in today’s world.

  • Peter T

    For me, a siren is a signal to turn on the radio, in the car or at home, primarily MPR. I work indoors, so I am usually not informed about the weather of the day. Please keep the sirens.

  • Nicholle

    Hell yeh.. they help if i’m hiking or something, or on the water..

    But they confuse me, you should have various tones or signals for whats occurring.. or an all clear. I don’t want to take shelter for a fricken rain burst.. i don’t want to waste my time..

    I don’t watch TV..and where its available have crappy reception ..(yes even the free stuff..hmm i wonder why..

    We can’t afford cable

    and of course..

    I love the radio..