Dickinson County Courthouse, Spirit Lake, Iowa

Outdoor Warning Sirens

When are outdoor warning sirens activated in Dickinson County?



When the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning or a tornado or funnel cloud is observed by a trained spotter.

80+ mph Winds


When a severe thunderstorm warning is issued and winds are expected to reach or exceed 80 mph and/or winds of this magnitude are observed by a trained spotter.

Baseball-size Hail


When a severe thunderstorm warning is issued and hail is expected to reach or exceed 2¾ inches (baseball size) and/or hail of this magnitude is observed by a trained spotter.

Why this criteria? It matches FEMA's criteria for activation of the Wireless Emergency Alert system for tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings. Click here for more information on wireless emergency alerts. This is different than our DickinsonAlert system!

There are several outdoor warning sirens within Dickinson County to alert the public of approaching tornadoes or thunderstorms containing high winds. There are several things you should know about outdoor warning sirens:

  1. Like their name implies, the sirens are meant to be an OUTDOOR warning system. They are not meant or designed to be heard inside homes and other buildings. To be alerted when indoors, you should purchase a NOAA Weather Radio.

  2. We try hard to activate the sirens ONLY in the areas of the county expected to be impacted by the storm.

  3. When activated, the sirens will sound for approximately three minutes then automatically shut off. Just because the sirens stop sounding does not mean that the severe weather threat has passed.

  4. THERE IS NO ALL-CLEAR SIREN. If the sirens sound again that simply means that the dangerous conditions are continuing and you should remain in, or return to, your shelter.

  5. All sirens in Dickinson County are controlled by the Dickinson County Communications Center.

If You Hear a Siren

When sirens sound, get inside, then get information!
Sirens are activated because something dangerous is happening or could happen very soon.

Get Inside: When you hear an outdoor warning siren, get inside immediately.

Get Information: Find out why the sirens are sounding. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or check local media outlets for more information and NEVER call 911 to find out why the sirens are sounding. In the case of severe weather or a tornado, stay in your shelter until the danger passes. NOAA Weather Radio or local media will let you know when the storm has passed and it is safe to leave your shelter. There is no all-clear siren. If the sirens sound again, that means the dangerous conditions are still occurring.

Siren Testing

Dickinson County tests the outdoor warning sirens every Wednesday at noon. Sirens in Spirit Lake, Okoboji, Arnolds Park, Milford, West Okoboji, Wahpeton, and Lake Park will sound while sirens in the unincorporated parts of Dickinson County, Orleans, Terril, and Superior will perform a quiet test only (sometimes referred to a growl test). If a siren near you does not sound during the regular weekly test, please notify the Emergency Management office at 712-336-3987.

We will cancel the weekly test if there are thunderstorms in the area or if a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch is in effect for Dickinson County. Tests are also suspended during the winter months to prevent damage to the equipment from ice and cold temperatures.

The Quiet Test

Siren Expansion

In the summer of 2007, the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of four new outdoor warning sirens from Federal Signal. These sirens were installed in 2008 near Camp Foster, Methodist Camp, Elinor Bedell State Park and near Okoboji View golf course. In the summer of 2009, two more sirens were installed around Big Spirit Lake, one near Anglers Bay and the other in the Shore Acres area. In 2010, another siren was added in the Moore Lake area and in 2011, in a partnership between the county and the City of Orleans resulted two sirens: one on the west side of Big Spirit Lake, covering Marble Beach Campground and the other covering the east side of Big Spirit Lake. Another siren, put into service in July of 2012, covers the community of Montgomery.

In 2013 the cities of Superior and West Okoboji were awarded hazard mitigation funds to install one outdoor warning siren in each community. With the installation of these two sirens, every city in Dickinson County has outdoor warning sirens.

In 2015, sirens were installed by the County at Horseshoe Bend County Park and at Crandall's Beach on the northwest side of Big Spirit Lake.

In 2020, a siren was installed along 255th Avenue just north of FedEx. Because this siren covers parts of Spirit Lake, Orleans, and the county, the cost of the siren was split among the three entities. This siren was also the first to utilize a solar panel to charge the batteries, thus eliminating the need for a connection to a commercial power supply. The additional cost of the solar panel will pay for itself within a few years.

There are now 35 city or county-owned outdoor warning sirens in Dickinson County.

System Upgrades

In 2020, sirens owned by Dickinson County and the cities of Orleans, Superior, and Terril were upgraded to allow for two-way communications. In 2022, Lake Park installed new sirens that are also capable of two-way communications. These upgrades allow us to test these sirens silently everyday and reduce the weekly full test to a simple, much quieter, quiet test (sometimes referred to as a growl test) on Wednesdays. Any problems enountered with the siren system as a result of these tests are transmitted immediately to the Emergency Management Office.