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Emergency alert system repaired

(2/1) When Emmitsburg’s emergency warning system went active in 2003, the hope was that it would warn residents when severe weather hit, like a tornado.

In that, it was successful. Less than six months after it was installed, the system was activated to warn residents of a potential tornado. The loud whooping siren sounded across town and then a voice issued the tornado warning.

However, of late, the alert has sounded when the skies have been clear. In at least one instance, the alert continued for hours.

“The problem was we were having some issues with the batteries,” said Tim Clarke, public information officer with Vigilant Hose Company. “They weren’t charging correctly and that was causing the failure.”

Scott Cassell, service and vice president with Communications Electronics, the company that sold Emmitsburg the alert system, confirmed that was one problem. In addition, there was a manufacturing problem, and in one spot wiring can rub together and cause a short circuit.

False alerts have sounded three times and Communications Electronics has made changes after each one, thinking the problem was solved. The most-recent fix was during the fourth week of January.

“We’ve scheduled to monitor the system weekly through the [fire] training center,” Cassell said. Personnel from the center will check the voltage on the solar-powered batteries and make sure everything is in order.

The alert system went active in December 2003 after 11 months of planning. It was a joint project involving the Town of Emmitsburg, Mount St. Mary’s University, the National Emergency Training Center, Vigilant Hose Company and the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company.

“Central alarm can activate the system or someone at the station,” Clarke said.
The three alarm towers are behind the town pool, on Silo Hill and by the cemetery on the west side of town.

Emmitsburg is the third municipality in the state to have such a system.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government