Severe Weather Awareness Week

Severe Weather Awareness Week is April 17-21 in Minnesota

Each year, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, in collaboration with the National Weather Service, use this week to remind everyone about seasonal threats from severe weather. 

Statewide tornado drills are scheduled for Thursday, April 20. The first-time outdoor warning sirens sound simulating a drill at 1:45 p.m. is intended for businesses and institutions. The second time they sound at 6:45 p.m. is geared toward families and second-shift workers.

Each day of the week, this will focus on a different weather safety topic:
Monday – Alerts & Warnings
Tuesday – Severe Weather, Lightning and Hail
Wednesday – Floods
Thursday – Tornadoes (with statewide tornado drills)
Friday – Extreme Heat

Below are some tips from the City of Ramsey Emergency Management:

  1. Monday - Alerts & Warnings
  2. Tuesday - Severe Weather
  3. Wednesday - Floods
  4. Thursday - Tornadoes
  5. Friday - Extreme Heat

Alerts & Warnings

We are fortunate to live in an age and country where our technology can now communicate with us almost anywhere and give us advanced warnings of impending hazards or other important information.

Knowing where and how to receive the warnings and what to do when you get them can mean the difference between life and death.

Wireless Emergency Alerts

In weather emergencies, warnings can save lives. But traditional warning methods such as television, radio and outdoor sirens don’t always reach everyone.

Emergency officials now have a new way to send warnings directly to cell phones in affected areas — Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs).

These short messages may look like text messages, but unlike texts sent directly to your phone number, these warnings will be broadcast to all phones within the range of designated cell towers.

The alerts will tell you the type of warning, the affected area, and the duration. You’ll need to turn to other sources, such as television or your NOAA All-Hazards radio, to get more detailed information about what is happening and what actions you should take.

Key things to know

  • WEA messages may look like a text or appear on your home screen.
  • The alert message will include a unique ringtone and vibration.
  • You will never be charged for WEA messages.
  • Emergency alerts will not interrupt any calls or downloads in progress. If you’re on the phone when the alert goes out, you’ll get the message when you end your call.
  • You need not have GPS or other special features turned on to receive the alerts.
  • The system does not identify your location or phone number – it simply sends the message to all devices in a given area.
  • If you’re on the road and enter an area with an active warning, you’ll receive a WEA message when you come within range of one of the affected cell towers. 

Three types of emergency alerts

  • PRESIDENTIAL ALERTS: Issued by the U.S. President in the event of a nationwide emergency. No president has ever yet had to issue a presidential alert, but should one become necessary, cell phone providers are required to broadcast it to all WEA-capable phones.
  • IMMINENT THREAT ALERTS: Typically issued by the National Weather Service, tornado, flash flood and blizzard warnings are some of the warnings the NWS will initially send.
  • AMBER ALERTS: Issued by the BCA; they will share information about child abduction.

Siren activation information

Warning sirens are the most effective method of warning the population at large about dangerous conditions. However, one common misconception about warning sirens is that they will alert the public to hazardous conditions while they are indoors. While some people may live close enough to hear the sirens indoors, this is not the intended purpose. The sirens are designed to advise people who are outside that a hazardous condition exists or is approaching. When the sirens are heard, go inside and tune in to local media to get more information.

Our warning sirens are connected to the Metro Warning System, which allows the sirens to be set off by either the State of Minnesota warning point or the Anoka County warning point in Anoka. The sirens are operated by a radio tone device that allows flexibility in setting them off for specific regions or municipalities within the county or even a particular siren. For severe weather warnings, outdoor warning siren activation in Ramsey is based on the following criteria:

  • When a Tornado Warning has been issued for the City of Ramsey
  • When a public safety officer (police, fire or EMS) reports sighting a funnel cloud or tornado
  • Sustained straight-line winds over 75 mph or potential for the same

 NOTE: There is no such thing as an "all-clear" siren.

Types of warnings

The National Weather Service uses the words "advisory,” "watch" and "warning" to alert you to potentially dangerous weather. Understanding these terms and knowing how to react can be a lifesaver.


An advisory is issued when a hazardous weather event is imminent or likely. Advisories are for less severe conditions than warnings that cause significant inconvenience and could lead to situations that may threaten life or property if caution is not exercised.


A watch means weather conditions are favorable for dangerous weather to occur. In other words, a "watch" means watching for what the weather could do and being ready to act accordingly. For events that come and go quickly, such as severe thunderstorms, tornadoes or flash floods, a watch means that the odds are suitable for the dangerous weather, but it's not yet happening.

When a severe thunderstorm, tornado or flash flood watch is in effect, you should look for signs of dangerous weather and maintain access to the latest information. Sometimes a severe thunderstorm, tornado or flash flood can happen so quickly that warnings can't be issued in time.

A winter storm watch means preparing by stocking up on emergency supplies and ensuring you know what to do if a warning is issued.


For severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash floods, a warning means the weather event is imminent or occurring somewhere in the defined warning area and that people need to take shelter as soon as possible.

Sirens typically give outdoor tornado warnings. People indoors should listen to radios, TV or Weather Radio warnings to learn the latest information. A winter storm warning means it's unsafe to travel or venture outside. If traveling, head for the nearest shelter.

More information is also available at Minnesota Severe Weather Week.