Stop. Listen. Take action.

What to do when you hear a nuclear siren

Stop. Listen. Find out what’s going on. Take action if needed. If hearing a siren makes you do these things, the siren has done its job.

We hear it on police cars, ambulances and fire trucks. If you live within 10 miles of a Duke Energy-operated nuclear power plant, you also hear a test emergency siren four times a year. County emergency management organizations are responsible for testing the alarms once a quarter in coordination with Duke Energy. Depending on where you live, some emergency management organizations also use the sirens to alert people of other emergencies including tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding.

“I have heard the sirens, but I assumed all were for tornadoes and for testing that aspect of the system. We had tornado tests weekly in Arkansas,” said Bryan Montgomery, who lives in Charlotte near the Catawba Nuclear Station.

Additional testing

Maintenance tests, acoustical studies and siren upgrades – sirens do sound outside of the regularly scheduled Wednesday siren tests from time to time.

Where should you go to find out if an additional test is occuring in your area?

Check the Duke Energy Nuclear Education Facebook & Twitter pages or your closest plant’s nuclear emergency preparedness webpage.

Judy Dryer of Charlotte had a similar experience when she moved to the Carolinas. “To me it sounds like the typical type of siren I'd hear for a tornado when we lived in Kentucky.”


North and South Carolina are two of the fastest growing states in the country when it comes to new people moving to the area, according to this year’s United Van Lines 46th Annual National Movers Study. Some folks, like Montgomery, may not know what to expect when they hear an emergency siren.

“I am not sure what we are supposed to do when we hear the siren related to the power plant. Not sure how to distinguish whether it is for tornado or power plant,” said Montgomery.

Now it is easier than ever to find out what to do when you hear a siren. Here are a few things you can do right now:

Review the emergency preparedness information sent to your household each year from Duke Energy.

  • Sign up for emergency alerts with your local county emergency management or follow them on social media. When there is an emergency, your local emergency management officials will notify the public and direct you if public action is needed.
  • Save a list of your local emergency alert radio stations. These radio stations will broadcast an announcement in the case of an emergency. Click on the link for your corresponding nuclear plant. Scroll down to “Sirens and Emergency Broadcasts,” and the list is on the right side of the page. Put the list on your refrigerator or save it on your phone.

Brunswick      Catawba      Harris      McGuire      Oconee      Robinson

  • For siren test reminders, text the name of your neighboring nuclear plant (i.e., Catawba) to 71729. This option is not for emergency alerts.

“When I hear the siren, I think about what day it is. I know the siren are tested on the second Wednesday of the month. If it's on the second Wednesday, then I assume they are just testing them. I also see it on Facebook Mom groups that I am part of. Usually someone will ask why the sirens are going off and another mom will reassure the person that the sirens are just being tested,” said Dryer.

Keep in mind – it's always a good practice to confirm information you hear from others using official resources like those provided by Duke Energy and your local emergency management organization. 

Next time you hear an emergency siren, check if it’s a quarterly test date. For 2023, the four test dates are as follows:

Full-volume tests (5-30 seconds)

2023: Jan. 11, April 12, July 12

Full-volume test (3 minutes)

2023: Oct. 11

If you hear the emergency sirens on another date or hear several three-minute-long siren blasts, tune in to your local emergency alert radio stations and check your county emergency management alerts and social media channels. If there were ever a real emergency at the plant requiring the sirens to be sounded, local radio and television stations would broadcast information and instructions to the public.

You stopped. You’re listening. You know where to get information. You know what to do. The siren has done its job.

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Please read our Comment Guidelines.


For real-time updates, follow us on Twitter

Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Opt out from these emails

Check out our new Facebook page