Howard County’s Office of Emergency Management won the Maryland Emergency Management Association’s prestigious Project of the Year award. (Source: Howard County Government)

The Maryland Emergency Management Association has presented the Emergency Management Project of the Year award in the Mitigation/Prevention category to Howard County for its Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Outdoor Tone Alert System in Historic Ellicott City. The system is a key component of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan.

The County launched its 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 in the 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. 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 federal partners. Working together, we are able to leverage federal tools and local hardware, building new capabilities that can be replicated across the country,” said Mike Hinson, director of the Office of Emergency Management. “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.”