High Ground Access Points

Public safety is the top priority of the Ball Administration, not only in Ellicott City but across Howard County. That is why the Ball Administration is moving forward with flood mitigation projects that will take significant amounts of water off of Main Street during severe weather events. However, it is still important to have tools available that can help people to safety when severe weather strikes. The outdoor tone alert system, along with the existing wireless emergency alert system, stream monitoring devices, and other communications channels are part of a comprehensive system working together to protect public safety.

The National Weather Service advises that when flooding occurs, the best thing to do is exit the floodplain if it is safe to do so. The High Ground Access Points, detailed on the map below are meant to show ways to exit the floodplain at different points on Main Street. It is important to note that due to the unpredictable nature of floods, some routes may be impassable.

Last year, "High Ground" signs were placed along Main Street identifying routes out of the floodplain. In each parking lot in Old Ellicott City, informational signs were installed explaining the access points. The Ball Administration also be provided signs, table tents, and window clings that businesses can display to provide this important information to their customers.

NEW Private Access Point Gates

In addition to the High Ground Access Points, working with two business owners in Ellicott City the Ball Administration was able to identify two access points on private property that allow people to quickly get off Main Street in the event of a severe weather emergency. Each point has a staircase that leads to a space above Main Street where people can wait out severe weather more safely. These two points are secured by gates that remain locked during non-emergency times but will automatically open in the case of high water on the street. The gates can also be opened by the county's public safety team and are equipped with a battery back up in the event of a power failure. 

Where are the Access Points and Gates?

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What do the Signs Look Like?

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Frequently Asked Questions

When should I go to high ground in the event of a Flash Flood Warning?

If Ellicott City is under a Flash Flood Warning, safely move to high ground. If you hear the Ellicott City Outdoor Public Alert tone, go to high ground, if possible. Use the elevated floors of a building only as a last resort.

Should I always utilize the designated high ground access areas?

Due to the nature of flash flooding, conditions may change quickly. Survey your surroundings and move to a safe area outside of the floodplain. While the high ground areas provide an easy means of exit, circumstances may require alternate routes and refuge.

What should I do when I get to a designated high ground area?

Remain there until flooding conditions subside, or until public safety officials indicate that it is safe to return. You may also hear an “all clear” message from the Ellicott City Outdoor Public Alert system, indicating it is safe to return.

Where are the designated high ground areas/points and gates?

The high ground areas are Maryland Avenue, Church Avenue, Old Columbia Pike, and Court Avenue. The gates are located at 8060 Main Street and 8044 Main Street.

How are the high ground routes marked?

The routes to high ground are marked with a series of yellow signs.

What is the difference between the High Ground Access Points/Areas and the Private Access Point Gates?

The High Ground Access Points are routes out of the floodplain that are on public property. The Private Access Point Gates are starcases that can be used to temporarily get off of Main Street in the event of a severe weather emergency. The gates are located on private property and are only unlocked during an emergency.

How can the private access point gates be opened?

The gates can be opened in several ways:

  • The property owner can unlock the gate, either using a pin code, key card, or physical key. The property owner cannot override the electronic access control system.
  • In the event of rising water, the gates are equipped with a high-water sensor that will automatically release them when approximately 1.5” of water above the sidewalk is sensed.
  • The County’s public safety team has been provided with a code that can be disseminated to those needing access by calling 911.

In Phase 2 of the gate implementation, the County’s public safety team will be able to remotely unlock the gates and County first responders access cards may be programmed to unlock the gates, as well. Once inside the gate, the gate can be opened by depressing a mushroom button, which is wall mounted. This will facilitate exit but can also be used to admit additional persons if needed.

Will the gates still work in the event of a power failure?

Yes. In the event of a power failure, the gates will continue to operate as normal as they are provided with a battery back-up. In the event that the battery fails, the gates will unlock automatically as they are equipped with “fail safe” operation.

Are the gates always unlocked?

No, the gates are controlled by an electronic access control system. This system protects the private property while allowing the County to override and release the gates when needed. The gates will only be unlocked when needed.

Should I call the police if I have to use one of the gates during severe weather?

Yes, if you have to use the gate and egress to high ground, call 911 and inform them of your location, and follow instructions as given.

What do I do once I go through the gate and up the stairs?

Once you proceed through the gates and up the stairs, you should shelter in place at an elevation where it is safe to do so until such point as the flood threat has subsided, or until emergency response personnel inform you it safe to leave the area.