Be warned, a siren in Nebraska isn’t Greek mythology


Dark clouds roll across the landscape, the wind start to blow from all directions, lightning begins to flash, thunder roars all around and it start to rain.

That is when you hear them, the warning sirens from Offutt delivering a dreadful message…tornado.

“In an emergency, seconds count,” said Horace Spiller, installation emergency manager for the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron. “The quicker you know there is an emergency, the quicker you and your family can get to safety.”

The first wave of notifications is the sirens. Sarpy County, Neb., has mandated that the warning sirens be tested on the first Saturday of each month from March through November at 10 a.m. They request that the public help report any problems with warning sirens not working.

To report a problem with a siren, please provide the following information:

• Address of the nearest street or road intersection.
• Siren’s two-digit ID number
• Any visual damage to the siren or pole

Additionally, be prepared to explain the problem, to include the following:

• Siren sounded but did not rotate
• Siren sounded but was weak
• Siren did not sound or rotate

To assist in the reporting, please use this form:

Team Offutt has the benefit of hearing the warning system being tested in other ways, as the notification system is utilized to play reveille and the National Anthem Monday through Friday.

The volume of the warning system on Offutt AFB is not adjustable, so residents closer to the base might feel it is too loud. Just remember the warning system has to reach great distances in order to save lives.

Besides making sure the sirens are functional outside your home, members of Team Offutt need to ensure their information is correct in the AtHoc emergency notification system - the little purple globe on your work computer. In order to give you one more layer of emergency notification protection, there is now a new AtHoc Notifier app.

“The [Notifier] app provides an additional means for military and civilian team members as well as their families to receive fast notification in the event of an emergency on or around Offutt AFB,” Spiller said. “’Notifier’ provides near instantaneous notification compared to telephone or email notifications, allowing personnel to take action more quickly.”

In addition to this form of notification, other means of notification include television and news and weather alerts on the radio.

Preparing a tornado-proof location in your house is also important.

The first step is to find a safe room in your home where your family and pets can gather during a tornado. The safe room should be an interior room on the bottom floor with no windows.

For guidelines on how to create a safe room, please visit:

A mobile home is not safe during tornados or other severe winds. Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately. Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately, using your seat belt if driving. Don’t wait until you see a tornado to seek shelter.

If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk/run to a shelter:

  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
    o Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket if possible.
    o If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

“Just a reminder for those with base access who are uncomfortable with their personal means of shelter, the Martin Bomber Bldg. [Bldg. D] close to the Kenney [Flag] Gate is available as a shelter,” said Alan Monte de Ramos, 55th Wing emergency management planning manager. “It is also important to note that residents shouldn’t take a chance on getting to a shelter if sirens and tornado warnings are already happening - find the safest and most secure place closest to your location.”

To assist families in the planning stages of severe weather preparation, the Air Force has developed an app called Be Ready. The app has three main areas, Get a Kit, Make a Plan and Be Prepared. The app will walk you through each stage to prepare you for bad weather.

An important thing to know during this time of year is the different terms used and what they mean. For instance, a Tornado Watch is a warning issued when conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado. A Tornado Warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted by weather radar.

After a disaster happens, all Air Force-affiliated personnel (active duty, select reservists, DAF and NAF civilians, OCONUS AF contractors and their family members, including personnel on temporary duty status, on leave or on a pass in the affected area) who are affected by major natural disaster or man-made event are to report their status to their command at the first available opportunity.

In some cases, the Secretary of Defense will direct all DOD-affiliated personnel in the affected area to report their accountability status as soon as possible. When this happens, if you have access to the internet you are to report your status online through the Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System.

Severe weather is hard to prepare for and impossible to run from. It may not be exciting, but it’s important to invest in your family’s safety and prepare them for the storm.

Here are a few links to assist you in your preparations.

AtHoc Notifier App Guide:
Tornado Fact Sheet:
Other Emergency Facts found at:
Information Resources: