We hear them every week across North Dakota. They go off at noon sharp on Wednesdays, but where did that all-too-familiar sound from the Midwest originate?

The siren, officially called as the "outdoor warning siren," is designed to alert people to a range of emergencies, most notably tornadoes and severe weather. Some sirens are also used to summon the fire department when necessary, especially in small towns.

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The siren on Wednesday is both a practice run and a test. It verifies the operation of our sirens as well as Williston's emergency preparation.

The drill has a particular history. It was originally established during WWII for safety concerns. The sirens we use today originated in civil defense, specifically the warning systems employed in Britain during the Blitz. Following numerous tests in the 1950s and 1960s, the sirens were eventually installed to warn citizens of nuclear attacks.

A federal proposal suggested that some locations only test on the first Wednesday of each month. The Federal Government gradually abandoned this guidance, leaving towns and counties with de facto usage.

Because local counties and municipalities are in charge of them, the sirens' tone and sound can vary depending on where you are.

These sirens are not technically typical because no regulation requires the drill to take place at a given time or in a specified manner.

It is critical to test these drills all year round because they alert for more than just weather.

Tornadoes are most common in the upper Midwest in June and July, but climate change is creating conditions for unforeseeable storms, such as the tornadoes in Iowa on January 16th or the tornadoes in December 2021.

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