Outdoor Warning System

Williams County Outdoor Warning System

The Williams County outdoor warning system is designed to alert people who are outdoors during emergencies.There are more than 40 sirens located across the county.

From April to September (peak weather season), we audibly test the sirens every Wednesday at 12 pm. During the off-season, the sires are tested on the 1st Wednesday of the month. In both cases, the test is not conducted if threatening weather is present.

The primary focus of this system is to provide warning of tornadoes and other dangerous situations. If possible, the system is sounded 15 minutes prior to the conditions entering an area. Some situations do not allow for this amount of lead time; other situations might cause us to increase the time.

When sounded, each siren runs for 3-minutes. During an emergency, one might hear the sirens several different times as we activate the system, let it run for three minutes, and then reactivate if a threat is still present.

Note that an “all-clear” is never sounded, this is in accordance to our internal policies and also the guidelines provided in a regional warning system agreement.

We do have the ability to not only use these for severe weather, but also for other emergencies where outdoor alerting and messaging is needed.  For example, we can activate a single siren to provide information on a hazardous smoke or chemical plume that threatening a localized area.

All of the sirens operate from AC or battery power, so commercial power outages do not affect the operation of our system.  We also have systems in place to back up the primary activation unit in our Emergency Operations Center.

Note that the siren system is designed to be an OUTDOOR warning system.  Newer construction homes are typically built to suppress outside traffic and neighbor noises, unfortunately the sirens are suppressed as well.  Add in the typical sounds of televisions, computers, game systems, radios and just normal conversation, and it may be unlikely that a siren could be heard indoors.

Many other means of warning exist for those indoors.  These include television and AM/FM radio, NOAA All-Hazards radios (“weather radios”), social media sources, and many telephone/tablet applications.  One should ensure that they have several sources of weather warning information, and that they do not all depend on commercial power or the internet (plan for the power being off or internet connectivity being down).

It is important to test the various means of warning.  Can a weather radio still get good reception in a underground steel storm shelter?  Is there power for a television in the shelter?

When the sirens sound during severe weather, one should TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!  If one wishes to seek additional information, it should be done from the safety of a shelter.  One should never go outside or look out of a window, as these are dangerous places during severe weather.

Never call 9-1-1 unless there is an emergency to report.

206 East Broadway
Williston, ND 58801

Mailing Address:
PO Box 2047
Williston, ND 58802-2047


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