Outdoor Warning System

It’s spring time here in North Texas and with spring weather we may often see severe storms that come with it. Over the years, the City of Keene has invested in warning systems to alert our citizens of approaching severe weather. However, there is often confusion on what a person should do if they hear the sirens activate. Keene Fire would like to take a moment to help educate our citizens on what it means when the sirens are activated in town. First let us share some information about Outdoor Warning Systems (OWS).

An Outdoor Warning System is a system designed to alert people who are outdoors and not in the safety of a sturdy structure. Usually, people are not around a radio, TV, or any other device that may provide weather warnings while they are outdoors. Traditionally, these systems have been mistakenly referred to as “tornado sirens”, but the term fails to acknowledge all hazardous situations for sounding sirens. These situations include, but may not be limited to tornados, hail, high winds, or other catastrophic events in which the community needs to be informed immediately. The OWS should only be used as a supplemental warning tool. Citizens should always tune in to their local weather station to get additional information.

So what is the criteria for setting off the OWS? Below is the current criteria adopted by the City of Keene.

The Outdoor Warning System shall be activated should any of the following occur:

1. Tornados, Funnel Clouds, or other catastrophic events reported by the:

  • Mayor 
  • City Administrator 
  • Trained storm spotters
  • National Weather Service
  • Supervisor for the Fire Department
  • Supervisor for the Police Department
  • Supervisor for the Public Works Department

2. Reported hail of 1.25” in diameter or greater

3. The National Weather Service issues a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Johnson County with the phrase “Destructive winds in excess of 70 mph are likely with this storm”.

4. Johnson County is under a under a Tornado Warning and a system has crossed the County line that could cause potential severe weather for the Keene area.

5. Any condition, which is judged to be hazardous to the citizens and an early warning could potentially save lives.

We hope this information helps the citizens to understand how and when the sirens are activated. As you can see, the sirens are not just for tornados. They can also be for other catastrophic events. Furthermore, these policies follow the regional guidelines that were developed for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, by the National Weather Service for Outdoor Warning System activation. This is the criteria that most cities in North Texas have adopted and use.

We feel that if people understand why the sirens were activated, then it may help them make a better decision on how to stay safe, no matter what city they are in.

Keene Fire Rescue