MADISON, Wis. -

Dane County's Emergency Management Department sounded the alarms Wednesday, continuing to test out the new outdoor warning siren system.

"The old system was a few decades old," said Tim Pierce, emergency communication manager. "It had some limitations as far as reporting for information that we could get, and it was no longer supported."

Pierce said the $800,000 project started last year, and includes upgrading the siren controls and central communication units in the county. The sirens typically alert people of a tornado warning, but can also sound for a mass hazardous-material release or other high-scale law enforcement warning.

Of the 134 sirens across the county, crews have visited and tested out 86 of them. The inspection involves looking at sensors, checking out calibrations and making sure power supplies are in proper working order.

"It was important that it was current technology and go into the future as well as bringing it all into one interface," Pierce said. "Instead of having a bunch of segregated systems that don't work together, this is all one."

Pierce said there were previously three separate systems for the outdoor sirens, email and mobile alerts. With the new equipment, Pierce said those systems will be integrated, making the process of emergency communication more efficient.

"We're moving to a more automatic process where we get information from the National Weather Service and from other sources, and it's all in a single system so we can get the same message out through many different methods at the same time," Pierce said.

Pierce said the new system should be fully installed and tested by mid-April.

The county plans to conduct a full system test on April 3 at noon, and will participate in a statewide tornado drill on April 18 at 1:45 p.m.