ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The Giant Voice, used by the Aberdeen Proving Ground Emergency Operations Center, is an important mass communication tool that just might save your life.

This outdoor notification system, created by American Signal Corporation, is used to immediately inform the APG population of emergency situations.

Pedro Rodriguez, the Giant Voice System program manager who works for APG's Emergency Operations Center, said this year the system was used to tell people to seek shelter when a tornado warning was issued for Harford County.

Aside from being tested monthly, the GVS is used during emergencies to alert people that are outside to seek shelter.

"It is meant for people who are outdoors," said Rodriguez. "It cannot be heard inside, and we
don't want people going outside to try and hear the message."

The EOC started using GVS four years ago. Originally APG was issued four towers under the
Department of Defense's Guardian, a program that was created in 2003 to enhance anti-terrorism force protection and security on DoD installations.

APG later purchased 12 additional towers that are strategically placed throughout APG North and South. Currently 10 towers are installed and the two remaining towers are scheduled for installation in the next couple of months.

"This year GVS will receive upgrades that will allow us to zone specific areas," Rodriguez said. "This will be helpful if an incident is just happening in the Aberdeen or Edgewood areas."

The GVS currently has five preprogrammed "hot key" messages: Seek Shelter, Severe Weather, Tornado Warning, Force Protection Condition Delta (which warns the public of elevated security concerns) and All Clear.

The encoder also has a "Live Voice" key and attached handset microphone for tailored, unprogramed addresses.

Rodriguez said the GVS is just one more way to keep the APG community informed during an emergency. In addition to the GVS, he said the public stays informed via email notifications, DIALOGIC telephonic notification, WEBEOC, ALERTUS Beacons , and social networking sites like APG's Facebook and Twitter pages and its Channel 21.

"Social networking helped the APG community stay informed of road closures and traffic light outages during the Hurricane Irene weather event last month," Rodriguez said. "Even though many people lost power, they were able to access this information with a smart phone."

APG plans to employ ARLERTUS desk top alerts, which allows mass notification thru all computers
on the network.

During a weather event or security threat, the APG community can also call the weather line, 410-278-7669 (SNOW), to find out the operating status of APG.

For tips on emergency preparedness, visit www.ready.gov, or call 1-800-BE-READY.