ELLICOTT CITY, MD - Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced the Office of Emergency Management has won the prestigious Emergency Management Project of the Year. Awarded by the Maryland Emergency Management Association in the category of Mitigation/Prevention, the statewide honor recognized the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Outdoor Tone Alert System in Historic Ellicott City. The System is a key component of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan.
This prestigious award further highlights our ongoing commitment of making the safety and security of the residents, businesses and visitors to Historic Ellicott City a priority. While integrating our Outdoor Tone Alert System with IPAWS required significant coordination with the National Weather Service, I am grateful to Mike and his team for forging ahead on ensuring this critical emergency infrastructure is able to operate at its fullest potential.
Ball launched the County’s Ellicott City Outdoor Tone Alert System in 2019 as a means of providing rapid notification to community members within Historic Ellicott City. The system consists of four semi-permanent speaker array towers located within the Historic Ellicott City area that produce a loud tone, warning individuals in outdoor spaces of active or imminent flash flooding and the need to move to higher ground immediately.
While the system was regularly tested for manual and remote activations, there was no way to test the IPAWS notification coming directly from the National Weather Service (NWS). As the system has been activated three times since its installation, the need to integrate IPAWS and the system became critical. By integrating the Outdoor Tone Alert System with IPAWS, the system is now automatically activated whenever NWS issues a Flash Flood Warning for the focus area of Historic Ellicott City.
The success of this project is due to our work with our federal partners. Working together we are able to leverage federal tools and local hardware, building new capabilities that can be replicated across the country. In this case we worked together to streamline public alerting timelines with the hope of increasing the time our community has to take action in an emergency.
The Mitigation/Prevention Program of the Year award recognizes a program focused on long-term strategies that protect lives and reduce the impact of disasters. The recipient of this award has taken an integrated approach to structural or non-structural mitigation techniques that increase the overall protection of their community.
MDEMA promotes and supports an all-hazards approach to emergency management in Maryland. For more information about this organization, visit www.marylandema.org.