Outdoor Warning Siren System

Emergency Management

Emergency Management

Outdoor Warning Siren System

The Outdoor Warning Siren System is one way Douglas County residents may be alerted to severe weather when they are outside. Read below to learn more about the system, when it sounds, and other ways to receive emergency notification. 

What is the Outdoor Warning Siren System?

Douglas County's outdoor warning siren system consists of 44 sirens placed strategically throughout the county as an early warning device to alert citizens outdoors to imminent severe weather. A map of siren coverage is linked at the bottom of this page.

The outdoor warning siren system is an effective method of outdoor notification, but Douglas County Emergency Management recommends that all residents have multiple ways to receive warnings and notifications. In other words, it is best to have more than one way to be warned of potential dangers. Warning and notification can be received by monitoring the following:

Developed as an early warning system of severe weather to persons outdoors, the system should not be relied upon for early warning to individuals indoors. Air-conditioning, thunder, wind, rain, and other conditions can cause the sirens not to be heard indoors (even if sirens can be heard indoors during tests). Sirens are also subject to equipment malfunction as well as failure due to damage from lightning strikes. This is another reason to have numerous ways to receive warning and notification. Furthermore, sirens do not provide any information concerning the type of threat or exact location of the potential danger. For this reason, if you are outdoors and hear a siren, you should seek shelter immediately as the threat may be in your immediate area.

Individuals, families, and businesses are strongly encouraged to use NOAA weather radios to receive warnings and emergency information. Douglas County Emergency Management sells these radios at cost for $30.00.

When are the sirens activated?

The outdoor warning sirens for any or all of the cities in Douglas County are activated when the National Weather Service issues a "Tornado Warning" or when a local determination is made that a tornado threat to the area exists.

This determination is made by Douglas County Emergency Management staff and will be based on the evaluation of all available information. This may include, but is not limited to, National Weather Service watch and/or warning text, weather radar and reports from trained weather spotters or law enforcement officers.

The emergency management on-call duty officer makes the decision to activate the sirens. If no such person is on duty or that person is not immediately available, the jurisdictional senior law enforcement officer on duty will make the decision and order that Emergency Communications Center staff activate the sirens.

The sirens are activated from the Emergency Management Operations Center by computer or encoder. Two backup locations are also available.

Except for the monthly tests, the outdoor warning sirens are used to signal a "take cover" warning.


When are the sirens tested?

The outdoor warning sirens will be tested on a regular basis. The test will occur at 12 Noon on the first Monday during the months August through February, and on the first and third Monday during the months March through July. Additionally, conducted each morning at 9:00 a.m. an operational poll of each siren is conducted. This is an automatic poll conducted by the computer software program.


What do I do if I hear the outdoor warning sirens and/or when a Tornado Warning is issued?

If the outdoor warning sirens are heard anytime other than the scheduled test days, seek shelter and tune in to local radio, television, or your NOAA weather radio for instructions and information.

  • In a home or building:
    • Move to a designated shelter (as determined by the facility or installed in your home), such as a basement or installed saferoom.
    • If a basement is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
    • Use your arms or a helmet to cover your head and neck to protect against flying debris.
    • Stay away from windows.
  • In a vehicle
    • Do not try to outrun a tornado. Abandon the vehicle and take cover in a nearby structure or building following the guidelines above.
    • If a suitable structure is not available, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine.
  • Mobile homes
    • Even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.
    • If severe weather is possible, see about staying with a friend or if your park has a shelter available.
  • Apartments:
    • If on an upper floor, see if a neighbor below is available to assist you or if the complex has a ground level or basement facility available.
    • Otherwise, go to and interior room on the lowest level possible.
    • Use your arms or a helmet to cover your head and neck to protect against flying debris.

You may not always be in a familiar place when severe weather strikes. Any time severe weather is possible, use the information above to identify or ask the building manager where to find the best shelter in your location.

Douglas County does not have community tornado shelters. Some community members use open public buildings as their shelter. Call ahead before the severe weather event to determine the hours of operation for any location you plan to use. Do not assume that location will be open. This could be very dangerous. If you plan to leave your home, give yourself plenty of time to get to your shelter location.


What is the signal that storms have passed?

There is a NO "all-clear" siren. Listen to a battery-powered NOAA All Hazard Radios or tune in to a local radio or television station for updated information and to determine when conditions are safe.


I couldn't hear the sirens in my basement/home. Why is that?

Outdoor warning sirens are an effective method of outdoor notification. Winds, rain, hail, thunder, air conditioning and other conditions can cause the sirens not to be heard indoors (even if sirens are heard indoors during tests). This is why is it important to have more than one way to receive watch and warning information.