Public Safety & Emergency Info

Information Categories
Emergency Information Resources

In the case of emergency, you can typically utilize radio, television, or the internet to learn more about the type of emergency and obtain further instructions / recommendations.

Here are some links to some helpful online resources:

Emergency Notifications

Sign up for Polk County / Alert Iowa notifications to receive emergency alerts to your phone and/or email. Alerts can notify you of weather events as well as other emergencies such as missing children, neighborhood crime watches, gas leaks, street closings, and more.

Learn more and sign up on the Polk County / Alert Iowa webpage.

Emergency Sirens

There are currently 11 storm sirens in the City of Altoona. Emergency sirens activate for tornado warnings and for severe thunderstorms when forecasted or actual winds reach or exceed 70 mph. When activated, the sirens sound in a cycle of 3-5 minutes, followed by a 10-15 minute break for the duration of the threat.

When sirens activate, seek shelter and tune into radio or television to gather further information about the type of emergency and obtain further instructions / recommendations.

Tests are conducted at noon on the first Saturday of each month unless severe weather is imminent.

Broken Sirens
If a problem is noticed with a siren, call the fire department at 515-967-2216 to report the issue. You can also report a concern online here.

Learn More
For more information, visit the Polk County Emergency Management page.

Car accidents

The Altoona Fire and Police Departments respond to numerous car accidents throughout the year. They provide coverage to sections of Interstate 80, Highway 65, the entire city limits of Altoona, and surrounding areas of Polk County.

At this time, car accidents are not posted anywhere online, unless an accident is expected to disrupt traffic for an extended period of time.  Residents can call the Police Records Department (515) 967-5132 (ext. 3) to obtain a copy of crashes. Police records requests can also be submitted online here

Extreme hot or extreme cold weather

In the case of an extreme hot or cold weather events, stay indoors if possible.

Extreme heat

  • If you must be outside, aim for early morning or late evening
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Use sunscreen.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness

Extreme Cold

  • Wear appropriate winter clothing (hats, gloves, and boots)
  • Wear clothing in several loose layers
  • Stay dry, as sweat
  • Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • When using space heaters indoors, be sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations and keep combustibles a safe distance away from heaters

In the case of a heat or cold related medical emergency; call 911 if needed.

Extreme Temperature Centers are public buildings where people can go to get out of the heat / cold. You can find a list of Extreme Temperature Centers on Polk County’s Emergency Management webpage.


Altoona is named after the Latin word “Altus,” meaning “high,” because the city was located on a high point on the Des Moines Valley Railroad. Even so, flood events can still impact Altoona residents.

In the case of a flood event, do not attempt to enter or drive through flood waters. It is not easy to judge the depth of water or the road conditions underneath.

  • 6 inches of water can cause most cars to stall or at least lose control
  • 12 inches of water will float many vehicles
  • If power lines are down, water inside your car could conduct the electricity

Call 911 if someone needs assistance or is stranded.

Snow events

In a snow event, stay off of the roads whenever possible. If you must drive, stay alert of your surroundings so that you can accurately report your location if you need help. Additionally, you can keep an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you get stranded. Some ideas for a winter emergency kit include:

  • Car Supplies
    • Jumper cables
    • Ice scraper & snow brush
    • Spare wiper blades
    • Tire chains
  • Personal Supplies
    • Chemical hand and foot warmers
    • Warm clothes and a blanket
    • Bottled water
    • Food with a long shelf life
    • A good first aid kit
    • Cell chargers
  • Other Supplies
    • LED flashlights
    • A five-pound bag of sand, road salt or kitty litter
    • A good snow shovel
    • Road flares or reflective warning triangles
    • Small toolkit
    • Winter safety apps on your phone

Learn more about Altoona’s snow ordinances and safety practices here

Tornado / High winds

In the case of a tornado or high wind event, stay indoors. Move to the lowest floor, towards the center of your house, away from windows.

You can learn more about preparing for tornadoes and staying safe during and after a tornado on the CDC website.