Warning Systems

Image Steele County has several methods available to alert the public to imminent danger. Dangers, such as severe weather, may be anticipated. Other dangers, such as a hazardous chemical release, may occur without advance warning. The most common alert is a Tornado Warning. Examples of other public notifications are:

  • Severe weather watches and warnings, including thunderstorm, tornado, blizzard, etc.
  • AMBER Alert.
  • Hazardous chemical release.
  • Civil emergency.

The method used to notify the public depends on the emergency situation and established procedures for handling the danger. Notifications to the public about an emergency situation can be made by:

  • Warning Sirens.
  • Cable television broadcast.
  • Announcement on local broadcast radio stations.
  • NOAA weather radios.
  • City Watch Emergency Notification System.

WARNING Sirens
WARNING sirens are intended to alert people who are outdoors. If severe weather is in your area, don't wait for the sirens to go off before seeking shelter. In some fast-moving storms, the danger may pass through before the siren can be turned on.

If you hear emergency warning sirens and the signal is a steady pitch, it means severe weather has been sighted near you. When activated, the WARNING sirens will sound for 4 minutes. The WARNING sirens will sound only once. There is not an all clear signal. Additional information should be gathered from other sources, such as a local broadcast radio station. Do NOT call the Police Department, Fire Department, or 9-1-1 for information.

If you hear emergency warning sirens with a warbling sound and it is used for other types of emergencies. The warning is advising you to turn on your radio or television to an emergency broadcast network for further information regarding this emergency. It may be used for a civil defense emergency, evacuation emergency or hazardous material incident in the community.

The sirens are activated on the first Wednesday of each month at 1:00 PM for testing. The sirens will sound for 1 minute and then shut off..

Cable Television Broadcast
The 9-1-1 Dispatch Center has the ability to interupt programming on the cable television system in Owatonna. This method of notification is utilized for all emergency communications. Public alerts using this method does not occur with television signals received over satellite systems or normal broadcast television antennas.

When an immediate public notification is required, the programming is interrupted on all channels. An alert tone is broadcast and a message displayed on the screen. The public is instructed to tune to channel 23 for additional information. After the initial alert is issued, normal broadcasting on the cable channels resumes. Detailed information is then broadcast on channel 23.

Broadcast Radio Stations
Broadcast radio stations receive information from several sources, and may not be from Steele County Emergency Management. Radio stations may receive direct notice from NOAA about weather emergencies and make the appropriate announcements.

Emergency Management does not have the ability to interupt broadcast radio stations as it does for cable television. Local broadcast radio stations may be asked to make announcements on behalf of Emergency Management.

NOAA Weather Radio
The NOAA Emergency Alert System is operated by NOAA. NOAA does not normally make announcements about local emergencies, except weather related situations. Emergency Management does not have the ability to interupt NOAA broadcasts, but may ask NOAA to make announcements on behalf of Emergency Management.