Severe Weather

What to do if the sirens sound

If you are outdoors, seek shelter immediately. If you are in a suitable shelter, turn on your television, radio or NOAA weather radio to get the latest information and instructions. Locally you can tune to KYMN 1080 AM. In the evening, when KYMN is off the air, you can go to KYMN radio's website where they stream live weather updates.

KYMN radio for live weather updates

Awareness of the sirens and what they mean is a critical piece to gaining knowledge of the emergency incident. First of all, sirens are only meant to be heard outdoors where people may not have access to media outlets such as TV, radio and NOAA weather radios.

If people are indoors, they need to rely on those media sources to get information about the current situation be it weather or some other emergency. The sirens indicate that something is happening that the public needs to be aware of. It is the public’s responsibility to find out what action they need to take. We should not assume that sirens only sound for weather events and on each Wednesday of the month.

How do I know when the event is over?

In a weather event, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues watches and warnings with an expiration time. The NWS can choose to cancel, extend or let the watch/warning expire. In the event the watch/warning is extended, a new expiration time will be included in the information.

In a non-weather event, information about the event and instructions would be available through local media outlets.

There is no “All Clear” siren or signal. In a weather event when a watch/warning expires, you must determine based on observations and information if it is safe to leave your place of shelter.

How is it determined if the sirens are activated?

The National Weather Service, trained Skywarn Spotters or any local public safety official determines if there is a weather threat, and if sirens should be activated. Sirens will be activated in the case of a Tornado Warning – either radar indicated or reports from trained spotters. If high winds are reported – typically exceeding the severe thunderstorm warning threshold of 58 MPH or greater the sirens may be activated.

In the case of non-weather emergencies local public safety officials determine the need to activate the outdoor warning system.

Monthly siren testing

Sirens within the City of Northfield are tested on a weekly basis year round to maintain readiness.

On the first Wednesday of each month, at approximately 1:00 p.m., sirens will activate and reach full volume. Two siren tones are tested steady and wail. The monthly test lasts approximately 5-8 minutes. This first Wednesday of the month test is initialized by the Pearl Street 911 Dispatch Center.

On the second, third, fourth and fifth Wednesday of each month at 1:00 p.m., a “growl test” is performed. During a "growl test," the siren is sounded at a very low volume to ensure it and all the associated hardware and monitoring equipment is in working order. People in close proximity to the siren will probably hear the growl test and see the siren rotate. The sirens will not reach full volume during a “growl test.” Total test time is approximately 15-30 seconds with the siren sounding for approximately 2 seconds. These tests are initialized locally, not from Pearl Street 911 Dispatch.

Siren testing may be postponed or canceled if severe weather conditions are currently present or imminent in the area.

The City of Northfield has a plan for notifying residents of critical situations affecting the community, such as severe weather conditions, bio-terrorism attacks, evacuation orders, boil-water notices and missing child reports.

Alerts will be broadcast via an outdoor siren warning system, local media outlets and as an alert on the city’s website.

Who sounds the sirens?

Pearl Street 911 Dispatch Center (dispatches public safety for Rice and Steele County including Northfield) has the primary responsibility to sound all sirens in the county. Pearl Street has overall operations policies and guidelines which provide direction and guidance for warning system activation. Northfield Emergency Operations can also activate the local outdoor warning system if needed.

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