Siren testing2

Tornado sirens in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy will be tested between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday, Jan. 27-31, 2020, as part of an upgrade to a digital system.

Listen to this article

An upgrade of the emergency outdoor warning sirens this week means people in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy are likely to hear their loud whines when there is no weather crisis.

Champaign County Emergency Management Agency Director John Dwyer said between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, all 39 sirens in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy and on the University of Illinois campus will be tested by Braniff Communications as part of a modernization.

“Basically, they have to touch every siren for it to be upgraded from analog to digital,” Dwyer said.

He expects the tests will be short, as in spurts of several seconds, depending on what tweaking needs to be done.

The new system, estimated to cost $63,000, allows for the automatic activation of the sirens whenever the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning.

Currently, “someone has to go over, stick a key in and turn it, and punch a few buttons,” he said. After the upgrade, “it will be tied to the weather service warning and certain computers at METCAD will be able to activate the sirens from desktop computers. It’s been a long time coming.”

Dwyer and his agency remind residents that outdoor sirens are intended to alert people who are outdoors that a tornado warning has been issued. If you hear the steady tone of a siren during severe weather, you should take shelter immediately.

Residents should listen to a local media outlet or NOAA Weather Radio or check the National Weather Service website during bad weather.


Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).