Let's talk tornado sirens

Let's talk tornado sirens
Posted on 02/23/2023

Take a few minutes around Severe Weather Awareness Week (March 6-10) to make sure you understand when tornado sirens sound and what to do when they’re activated.

How they work in Lenexa

Johnson County has 33 tornado sirens throughout Lenexa. The county has the primary responsibility of activating the sirens, but our public safety staff can do so if needed.

While you can often hear the sirens indoors, they’re intended as an outdoor warning system. Don’t rely on hearing a siren to know when there’s a tornado threat! Make sure you have multiple ways to get severe weather alerts, like a weather radio, local media and Notify JoCo. Sign up for this free emergency notification service at NotifyJoCo.org.

Did you know? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security can also activate the sirens during an attack. In that case, the sirens would have a wavering tone — different from the steady tone of a tornado warning.

When the siren sounds outside of a test, ALWAYS take shelter IMMEDIATELY

You always need to take tornado sirens seriously, because — outside of scheduled tests — they’re only activated during serious threats. Sirens sound when:

  • The National Weather Service issues a tornado warning for Johnson County.
  • A trained and certified weather spotter reports a tornado.
  • Local public safety officials report a tornado.

If you’re already indoors, go to a basement or interior room on the lowest floor away from windows, doors, outside walls and glass. Seek a small interior space. Centrally located stairwells are good shelter areas.

If you’re outside or in your car, immediately find the nearest permanent structure or tornado shelter. If there isn’t a place to shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch and cover your head with your hands.

Know about testing times, and use drills to prepare

Johnson County typically tests tornado sirens on the first Wednesday of each month. The County tests the sirens at 11 a.m.; then we test the sirens from city equipment at 11:15 a.m.

Tests are canceled or delayed when there’s a risk of severe weather. They aren’t usually tested in December or January, because winter weather can damage the equipment.

Sirens also sound during the annual statewide tornado drill. Mark your calendar for this year’s event: Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at 10 a.m. Whether you’re at home or work, practice taking shelter just as you would during a tornado.

Before or after your drill, take some time to make sure you have a well-stocked emergency kit. A great supply checklist and other resources to help you prepare for an emergency are available at Ready.gov/Kit.

Published February 23, 2023