Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Emergency Management

Dane County Emergency Notification System

Dane County's emergency notification system consists of multiple components. Recognizing that no one application can provide warning to all citizens, we take a systematic approach capitalizing on the advantages of using multiple components. Information on options available to you can be found under the "Emergency Alerts" drop down at the top of this page.

Severe Weather Watches and Warnings

The National Weather Service issues all severe weather alerts. The National Weather Service uses the terms “Watch” and “Warning.” Knowing the difference is very important.

A "Watch" is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather. Take a severe weather watch seriously! Even though severe weather may not be imminent, watches are issued to give you a heads-up that weather conditions may be changing rapidly. Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to act quickly if/when conditions warrant. When a severe weather watch is issued, it should also serve as reminder for you to confirm that your method of receiving severe weather warnings is functioning. This includes smart phone apps, a NOAA weather radio, and/or local broadcast media.

A "Warning" is issued when severe weather is occurring or is imminent. National Weather Service meteorologists use information from weather radar as well as a network of trained weather spotters to issue severe weather warnings. For example, a Tornado Warning means either the National Weather Service’s Doppler radar is detecting wind circulation that could produce a tornado or trained weather spotters have actually sighted a tornado or specific indicators of a tornado. You should take immediate steps to protect yourself and loved ones when any severe weather warning is issued.


Following significant storm events, people may report that the storm hit “with no warning.” While tragic, this is very rarely the case. Almost all major storm events are preceded by a watch issued hours in advance, and a warning issued when dangerous weather is imminent. 

The warning system can only be effective if you actually receive the information and take appropriate action. The Dane County Notification System offers several options for receiving severe weather alerts and we recommend that you take advantage of as many of them as possible.

No single severe weather alerting method is perfect; plan to receive alerts from multiple sources. Relying on a single alerting source risks missing a warning if that single source fails. Taking a systematic approach by receiving information from more than one source ensures you are much more likely to receive the warning if one source fails.

Consider the following to assure that you are able to receive severe weather warning information in a timely manner:

  • Have multiple sources for severe weather alerts
  • Purchase and use a NOAA weather radio if you don't already have one
  • Rely on the outdoor warning sirens for outdoor warning only
  • Verify that the Wireless Emergency Alert feature is enabled on your smart phone
  • Set up one or more weather warning apps on your smart phone
  • Refer to broadcast radio or television for severe weather details and follow-up information
  • Register to receive alerts on your cell phone, text, and e-mail at: Sign up for Dane County Alerts
  • Follow us on Twitter (@DaneCountyEM) and like us on Facebook (Dane County Emergency Management)

Please contact Dane County Emergency Management if you have any questions about the County's notification system or would like additional information on available options.