Because severe weather can threaten the lives and property of Minnesotans at any time, Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed April 15 to 19 as Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Houston County will mark this important week with two severe weather alert siren tests on Thursday, April 18, at 1:45 p.m. and 6:55 p.m.

Since 2000, disasters have claimed the lives of 21 Minnesotans and caused more than $373 million in federally declared damages. Houston County has been included in four of these declared disasters.

"It takes the whole community to prepare for, respond to and recover from tornadoes, straight-line winds, floods and heat waves," said Houston County Emergency Management Director Kurt Kuhlers.

"We hope all residents will take time during this week to re-assess their personal emergency plans and supplies."

Houston County partners with the National Weather Service and various state agencies to present comprehensive life saving information on websites.

Each day of Severe Weather Awareness Week is devoted to a specific topic to help keep Minnesota ready.

• Monday - Alerts and Warnings: The Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) website has information explaining the new wireless emergency alerts that provide tornado warnings on cell phones.

In Houston County there is an emergency notification system called CodeRED. Residents can sign up for it online at http://co.houston.mn.us.

Learn when and why your community sounds its outdoor warning sirens and what action to take when they are activated.

Review what action to take if you are driving during a tornado warning. Severe Weather Awareness Week is a great opportunity to talk with your children and elderly parents to ensure they know proper procedures.

• Tuesday - Severe Weather, Lightning and Hail: Every thunderstorm produces lightning. Learn more about myths and facts surrounding lightning.

• Wednesday - Floods: Spring flooding and flash flooding combine to produce some of the most dangerous and costly disasters in Minnesota. Review this important checklist to learn how you and your family can prepare for and respond to flooding.

• Thursday - Statewide tornado drill day: Review tornado safety information and then at 1:45 p.m. the National Weather Service will issue a simulated tornado warning for Minnesota counties.

Businesses, schools and local and state agencies are encouraged to use this warning as a time to review emergency procedures.

At 6:55 p.m. the NWS will issue a second simulated tornado warning. The second drill is issued to allow families to practice their emergency plan at home.

• Friday - Extreme Heat: Heat-related illness accounted for 35 deaths in Minnesota from 2000 - 2010. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says residents 65 and older are most vulnerable to heat-related hospitalizations.

The MDH website includes an Extreme Heat Toolkit to help communities better prepare for the hot summer months.

Severe Weather Awareness Week is a time to join together as a community and share ideas to keep all Minnesotans ready.