The sirens around Dane County are not just for warning about tornadoes.
Although tornado warnings are by far the most common cause for the sounding of the alarm, the sirens are used for other hazards.
For example, they may be sounded for a major chemical release due to some accident.
The siren system is designed to alert people of health hazards or life-threatening situations.
In Dane County, the 911 Center is the primary activation point of the county sirens, with the County Emergency Management office serving as backup.
There are more than 130 sirens distributed throughout the county. Monthly testing of the sirens occurs at noon on the first Wednesday of the month.
A tornado warning can only be issued by the National Weather Service, and it is that warning that makes it to the 911 Center.
Local utilities supply the needed electrical power to the sirens, and in the event of severe weather, a power failure or a lightning strike may shut down the sirens. So a backup for a weather hazards notification is probably a good idea.
That can be a NOAA Weather Radio which has National Weather Service broadcasts of severe weather watches and warnings. Local radio and television are also good resources.
Smartphone apps are also becoming more popular. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and wireless industry carriers have collaborated to produce the Wireless Emergency Alert system. Through this national emergency alert system emergency managers can send text-based messages to wireless devices.