Steele County has several methods available to alert the public to imminent danger. Examples of 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. Depending on the location and type of event, the same warning may not be made on all of the methods. Notifications to the public about an emergency situation can be made by:
- Outdoor Warning Sirens
- Cable television broadcast.
- Local broadcast radio stations.
- NOAA weather radios.
- Everbridge Emergency Notification System.
- Cell phone Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
Outdoor Warning Sirens
Outdoor warning sirens are NOT intended to be the primary method of alerting the general public. The purpose of Outdoor Warning Sirens is to alert people who are outdoors and may not have the ability listen to other notification methods. If severe weather is anticipated, residents should closely monitor weather information on radio or television. 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. If you hear emergency warning sirens with a warbling sound and it is used for other types of emergencies, such as a civil defense emergency, evacuation emergency or hazardous material incident in the community.
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.
When activated, Outdoor Warning sirens:
- Sound for 4 minutes.
- Sound only once.
- DO NOT sound an all clear signal.
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 interrupt 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, normal broadcast television antennas or internet streaming.
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.
Steele County Emergency Management does not have the ability to interrupt 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. Steele County Emergency Management does not have the ability to interupt NOAA broadcasts, but may ask NOAA to make announcements on behalf of Steele County Emergency Management.
We encourage everyone to have a working NOAA All Hazard Radio in their homes and businesses. Contact Steele County Emergency Management if you need assistance properly programming your radio.
Everbridge Emergency Notification System
The Everbridge system is designed to contact individuals directly. Notifications can be made to a specific area. Notifications are made based on your location information in the Everbridge system. All residents are encouraged to opt-in to receiving Everbridge notifications on the home phone and cell phone.
Cell Phone Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA)
WEA is a public safety system that allows customers who own certain wireless phones and other compatible mobile devices to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. These alerts are initiated at the state level. Steele County Emergency Management may request a WEA.
All modern cell phones have WEA capability. Messages are sent through cell phone towers based on the location of the cell phone tower and the location of the emergency. A severe storm warning, for example, may be issued to cell phones currently located in Steele County. Since WEA messages are based on the location of the provider cell phone towers, a message may not be received on all cell phones.