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Newcomers, Don't Fret: Understanding North Texas' Outdoor Siren System

With storm season underway, residents are reminded to heed vital safety signals
Photo: AyhanTuranMenekay / Shutterstock

As storm season sweeps across North Texas, it's crucial to understand the reliable outdoor warning siren systems in place. These systems might be unfamiliar to newcomers, but they are essential safety alerts during severe weather. Municipalities like Allen, Texas, have taken the initiative to remind their residents about them. 

According to guidelines provided by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, outdoor warning sirens serve as crucial mechanisms for alerting citizens to various emergency situations, including severe weather, civil defense needs and hazardous materials accidents. While commonly associated with tornadoes, these sirens are also activated for various other emergencies, emphasizing the need for public awareness and preparedness.

Allen operates 26 outdoor sirens, sounding for winds over 70 mph, hail larger than 1 inch and tornado warnings affecting the city. Similarly, Plano's system, consisting of 43 sirens strategically placed throughout the city, activates under severe thunderstorm warnings with winds exceeding 70 mph, tornado sightings or hail of 1.5 inches or larger.

To ensure effective response and mitigate confusion, communities conduct monthly tests of their outdoor warning systems — in Allen and Plano, these tests happen at noon on the first Wednesday of every month. However, these tests are not conducted during periods of severe or inclement weather to avoid misconceptions about actual emergencies.

During activations, residents are advised to seek shelter indoors away from windows, and to rely on designated emergency alert stations for updates rather than calling emergency services to inquire about siren activations.

In addition to safety information, municipalities collaborate with regional partners and media outlets to disseminate accurate updates during emergencies, enhancing public safety and preparedness.

You can also sign up for severe weather and safety alerts on your mobile device: for Allen, click here and for Plano, click here. 

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