May 14, 2019

Media Contact:
Mark Miller, Administrator, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022 

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – The Howard County Office of Emergency Management will conduct the first test of the new Ellicott City Public Alert System on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. As part of County Executive Calvin Ball’s EC Safe and Sound Plan, the county purchased two temporary speaker arrays. The arrays will be located at the Visit Howard County Welcome Center, 8267 Main Street, and at the Ellicott City Colored School, Restored, 8683 Frederick Road in Ellicott City. 

“Making Ellicott City safer will continue to be a priority of mine and this new Public Alert System is one more measure to ensure we reach as many people as possible if flash flooding is imminent in Ellicott City,” said Ball. “We know that when flash flooding occurs, seconds matter and we want to give as much warning as possible so people can move out of the flood plain to higher ground.”

Wednesday’s testing will last no longer than one hour. Testing will occur at various times throughout the hour, and each test will last from several seconds to two minutes. The testing will confirm the alert system’s tone travel-distance and other related functionality of the system. Various tones and speech will be tested. Should Howard County be affected by severe weather resulting in an increased risk of flooding on the day of the test, the testing will be rescheduled. 

Additionally, new variable message sign boards located at all entry points into Historic Ellicott City will alert the community to the date and time of the testing prior to it occurring.

Once this testing is complete, the units will remain in place and a long-term testing schedule will be put into effect to ensure the system remains connected and in proper operation. There are several scheduled tests that will occur once the system is operational:

  • Silent Test- High pitched short burst (under 2 seconds). This type of test will be scheduled for every Thursday at 10 a.m. 
  • System Test- A voice alert announcement of the test, and short single tone. This type of alert will be once a month and on the Second Thursday at 10 a.m. in place of the silent test. 
  • Annual Test- A full alert of a pulsed tone (Flash Flood Warning Alert Tone) for under 2 minutes. This test will be held once a year in December. 

A System or Annual Test will not occur if there is a Flash Flood WATCH in effect during the test date/time. However, if a Flash Flood WATCH is issued for Ellicott City, a silent test may be done to ensure the system is properly operating. 

The tone used for the System and Annual Test was chosen through an online vote conducted on the website.

In addition to the Ellicott City Public Alert System, residents are encouraged to set the notifications on their smart phones to receive emergency alerts. These alerts are part of the Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS) operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Read more about IPAWS at Weather radios approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also provide another method of alert for residents and businesses. The radios can be purchased online and through many electronics retailers.

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