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Emergency Management

Warning Systems and Shelters

Tiered Warning System

Outdoor Warning Devices

When are warning devices tested?

Sedgwick County outdoor warning sirens are tested every Monday at noon, except when threatening weather is present and on holidays.

Why and when are warning devices sounded?
  • Outdoor warning devices are designed to be an early warning primarily for persons who are outside away from the television and/or radio.
  • The alert mode is a steady tone used for tornado warnings. The attack mode is a classic rise and fall sound used for air attack warning in times of war.
  • Remember, when the outdoor warning sirens sound, TAKE COVER, TUNE IN and TAKE ACTION.
How does the warning system operate?

Public warning sirens are sounded when dangerous weather or emergency conditions exist. When sirens are sounded, evaluate conditions. If strong winds, heavy rain or large hail are present, take shelter immediately. If the weather doesn't appear threatening, check local media outlets and weather radios for warnings or emergency information.

Sedgwick County Emergency Management coordinates with The National Weather Service Wichita office in providing the most timely and accurate weather warning possible for the citizens of Sedgwick County.

Sedgwick County Emergency Management also supplements warning capabilities to other public safety entities in Sedgwick County and provides needed warning for other non-weather emergencies that could put citizens in harm’s way.

How do I report a non-functioning outdoor warning device?

Call the emergency management office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 660-5959 and advise any available staff member. For times beyond normal business hours, contact 911.

Where are the warning devices located?

Visit the GIS website and click on the "siren coverage" link to view a map of the siren locations in Sedgwick County.

Seek Shelter

Sheltering Tips
  • Identify a shelter location NOW; do not wait until severe weather is threatening.
  • Tune into local media outlets if there is a chance for severe weather and take shelter if a severe storm is headed in your direction.  Don't wait until you hear the sirens.
  • For sheltering in a home or business, get to a basement if available; otherwise, find an interior room with no windows on the lowest level.
  • Those without an adequate shelter location in their home, and EVERYONE who lives in manufactured housing, will need to identify a location off-site where they will seek shelter from storms.
    • Check with neighbors, relatives or friends nearby to see if they will allow you to shelter with them.
    • Some churches and other neighborhood locations will allow people to shelter in their basements if they are open. If you are going to use one of these, make sure you know the hours they are available and what their policy is for after-hours. Have a back-up plan in case your first choice is unavailable.
  •  If you are caught outdoors, driving, or away from home when the storm hits:
    • Try to get inside a reinforced shelter if you can find one.
    • If no shelter is available, get out of your vehicle and get as low as possible, preferably in a ditch; cover your head and hang onto anything sturdy.
    • Avoid seeking shelter under highway overpasses. These can act as wind tunnels and can be more dangerous than being low to the ground in an open area. Plus, multiple cars parked under bridges lead to accidents and clog the road, preventing emergency workers from getting through.
Shelter in Place

Some situations will require you to remain in your home during an emergency, usually involving hazardous materials.  This is called "Shelter-in-Place."  Here are the steps to follow if you are directed to Shelter-in-Place:

  • Turn on the radio or television for information.

  • Move family members and pets inside immediately, if they are outdoors. 

  • Close all windows and doors tightly. 

  • Turn off ventilation systems - furnace, attic fan or air conditioning. 

  • Choose one room, preferably an interior room or bathroom.  Seal the entrance by placing duct tape around the windows and stuffing wet towels under the doors.

Watch a video that shows you how to Shelter in Place - August 22, 2008,18 min 10 sec

shelter-in-place diagram

Why doesn't Sedgwick County or Wichita have community shelters?

Due to the size of Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita, as well as other logistical problems, such as security and access, it is impractical to have public shelters in Wichita.

We also learned lessons from other storms, such as the Wichita Falls tornado, during which people left their homes and other structures and died trying to reach a community shelter.  If you feel you must leave your home to take shelter somewhere else, it is very important that you do so well before the storm arrives and not wait until the last minute.  If you have waited too long, then you are better off taking shelter wherever you are rather than risk driving into the path of the storm.

Some municipalities in Sedgwick County offer community shelters.  Contact your city offices to inquire about these.