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Tornado Warnings and Outdoor Sirens

Tornado Warnings are issued by the National Weather Service when a tornado has been sighted by trained weather spotters or is indicated by Doppler radar. Tornado Warnings are issued as "storm-based warnings" that alert those in the path of the storm of imminent danger. They are not issued by county. If a Tornado Warning is issued for your location, you should seek shelter immediately.

The NWS uses official channels to disseminate Tornado Warnings, which are then broadcast to the public in a number of ways, including local and national media, NOAA Weather Radio (an official dissemination of the NWS), and smartphones, whether via alert apps provided by third parties or Wireless Emergency Alerts pre-installed by phone manufacturers. In addition, outdoor warning/tornado sirens will sound.

Outdoor warning sirens are activate and maintained by a variety of emergency management and government agencies within Shelby County. In the city of Memphis, the Office of Emergency Management is responsible for siren activation. In Bartlett, Collierville, and Germantown, city officials activate their respective sirens. Outside these areas, including unincorporated Shelby County, Millington, Arlington, and Lakeland, the Shelby County Office of Preparedness is responsible for siren activation.

Siren policies vary by agency and municipality in Shelby County. As of October 1, 2014, the following are siren policies within Shelby County:

  • City of Memphis - All sirens sounded for any Tornado Warning in Shelby County
  • Shelby County - All sirens sounded for any Tornado Warning in Shelby County
  • Bartlett - All Bartlett sirens sounded for any Tornado Warning that affects Bartlett
  • Collierville - All Collierville sirens sounded for any Tornado Warning that affects Collierville
  • Germantown - All Germantown sirens sounded for any Tornado Warning that affects Germantown

The city of Memphis will be updating their siren policy to only sound sirens in those areas that are within a storm-based warning polygon. So rather than warn the entire city for any warning in Shelby County, sirens will only sound for residents in imminent danger. For example, if a warning is only in effect for Collierville or Millington, Memphis sirens will not sound. Or if a warning only affects East Memphis, downtown sirens will not sound. ** NOTE: As of March 2016, this policy has not been implemented. **

We strongly recommend having multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings, especially when sleeping. Outdoor warning sirens are designed to be an early warning device primarily for persons who are outside away from the television and/or radio. They are not frequently heard in homes due to distance from a siren, air conditioners running in well-insulated homes, and people being asleep during nighttime storms with thunder, rain, and wind. For these reasons, a NOAA Weather Alert Radio is recommended for everyone's home, preferably in the bedroom, with a tone alert programmed and fresh batteries. Weather radios are as vital as smoke alarms.

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For a list of warning sirens in Shelby County (Excel format), click here.

View warning sirens in Google Maps: click here

Download KML file for Google Earth: click here

Information above courtesy Memphis Office of Emergency Management and various EMA agencies.
Locations of warning sirens are provided to the best of our ability and may not be 100% accurate.