Shouldn’t I be able to hear the sirens in my home or business?
NO! The sirens are the OUTDOOR component of the warning system. The sirens are not intended to alert people who are indoors. The sound from the sirens simply does not penetrate into buildings such that the sirens would be a reliable means of indoor warning. This is especially true in buildings with closed windows and interior background sounds such as television, air conditioning, appliances, etc. If you are inside, with the windows closed, the TV on, or the air conditioner running, you will probably not hear a siren if it sounds, even if you are within the effective outdoor range. If you are sleeping, an outdoor siren will probably not wake you up. You are setting yourself up for a potentially dangerous situation if you are relying solely on an outdoor siren as your only source of warning.
This is not a new phenomenon. To illustrate, in a 1956 report submitted to Congress, the Federal Civil Defense Administration, stated, “Although satisfactory outdoor warning devices may be installed, there is still the problem of how to warn people in homes and other buildings from which the outdoor devices may not be heard.”
Thankfully, indoor warning is no longer the technical problem that it once was. There have been great advances in indoor and mobile warning since 1956. Eau Claire County Emergency Management recommends that people take advantage of these advances and have alternate, redundant means of receiving warning information.
What is the purpose of the siren system?
The sirens are to notify people who are outdoors that they need to seek shelter immediately and turn on their TV or radio for information.
When are the sirens sounded?
The sirens are sounded when the National Weather Service issues a Severe Storm or Tornado Warning for Eau Claire County.
Who decides to sound the sirens?
While the National Weather Service is responsible for issuing severe weather warnings, they do not decide when and how the sirens will be activated. The siren system is operated by the County and County policies determine when and how the sirens will be activated. The primary activation point of the siren system is in the Eau Claire County 911 Center.
Are the sirens sounded county-wide for a Tornado Warning?
The sirens in Eau Claire County are tested between 11:00 a.m. and 11:05 a.m. on the first Monday of each month.
Can the siren loudness be turned down for the monthly tests?
Unfortunately, no, the sirens cannot be turned down. The sirens are either on or off. They cannot be turned down or be made less intrusive for tests.
Does Eau Claire County use different siren signals for different types of warnings?
No, in all cases, the siren activation is a three-minute steady tone. This includes monthly tests and actual warning activations. Some communities use the siren for local purposes such as a noon whistle or fire calls. Those signals are different. In all cases, however, the warning signal is a three-minute steady tone.
Does Eau Claire County sound the sirens for an “All-Clear” after the threat has passed?
No. The sirens in Eau Claire County are never sounded for an “All-Clear.”
If the television or radio recommends taking shelter, but the sirens are not sounding, what steps should I take?
Don't wait for the sirens to sound if you see severe weather and are warned by TV or radio to take cover, do so immediately. The sirens are well maintained, but they are mechanical devices and cannot be guaranteed to function 100% of the time.
Please contact Eau Claire County Emergency Management if you have a question about the siren system that is not answered here.