Participate in Statewide Tornado Drill March 20

Statewide Tornado Drill logoLast year, 51 tornadoes hit Virginia, the second highest number on record.

While Fairfax County government will be participating in our three-day tornado exercise described yesterday on this blog, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service are hosting the annual statewide tornado drill on Tuesday, March 20, at 9:45 a.m.

While we’re working in the county’s Emergency Operations Center on the tornado scenario, we’re asking you to participate in this simple statewide drill.

Businesses and organizations, schools and colleges, and families and individuals are encouraged to practice taking cover from tornadoes.  

Here’s how it works:

  1. At 9:45 a.m., the National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning that will trigger a tone alert and broadcast message on NOAA Weather Radio. The message will be picked up by TV and radio broadcasters, simulating what listeners will hear during an actual tornado warning.
  2. When the test tornado warning is sounded, people should move as quickly as possible to a safe area in their building.  Safe areas are basements and crawl spaces, as well as interior rooms, bathrooms, closets or hallways on the lowest level of a building.  In choosing a safe area, stay away from windows.  Once in the safe area, crouch down or sit on the floor, facing down, and cover heads with hands.   

Everyone in Fairfax County (and throughout the Commonwealth) can participate in the statewide tornado drill.  Please register for the drill so state emergency managers know how many people are practicing tornado safety.  Registration is voluntary – the most important thing is for you to hold a tornado drill in your home, school or workplace at least once a year. Learn how to conduct your own drill.

About Fairfax County Emergency Information

Official emergency information about preparedness, response and recovery from Fairfax County Government.

11 responses to “Participate in Statewide Tornado Drill March 20”

  1. Ron Niemeyer says :

    When will the drill end?

  2. Heather Franks Forest says :

    Was the tornado drill isolated to the area mentioned only? I’m just wondering because we live in Fairfax county and have NEVER heard a tornado siren, here. Does the county use sirens? If not, why?

    • Fairfax County Emergency Information says :

      Hi Heather, Sorry for the delayed reply. There are no sirens in Fairfax County. Sirens only emit a sound which doesn’t convey a specific message for people to take. Since an “alarm” can mean many things to many people depending on their culture and regions of the country/world where they are from, it’d be unclear what action residents should take if they heard a siren — go inside or go outside; leave the area or stay in the area, etc.

      Fairfax County has previously determined that the use of sirens is not feasible for the county due to its mostly suburban population. Emergency managers stress that sirens, too, are limited because they are designed to reach people outdoors. They are not ideal for suburban counties where people tend to spend more time indoors than outside and should not be relied upon to provide sufficient warning indoors or in noisy areas. Air-conditioning, thunder, wind, rain, and other conditions can cause the sirens not to be heard indoors or outdoors (even if sirens can be heard during tests).

      Best advice is to register for text/email alerts at