It was seven years ago that a devastating tornado leveled most of Charles County.  Lives were lost and property damages exceeded $100 million.

Communications, or the lack of, was cited  as one of the main culprits for the unpreparedness, but that fence has been mended.

On April 28, the Charles County Commissioners and the County’s Department of Emergency Medical Services debuted PHASE I of its Citizen Notification System at a press conference in the County Government Building.

CNS is a free, subscription e-mail/text service that allows citizen’s to receive timely information notices regarding severe weather advisories and homeland security alerts that affect Charles County on their computers, cell phones, or any device that is capable of receiving e-mail or text messaging.

“CNS will revolutionize the way we stay in contact with our citizens during times of emergencies,” said Commissioner President Wayne Cooper. I remember when the tornado struck back in 2002, and there was no real signal sent out warning of impending winds and softball size hail,” added Cooper.

In a packed conference room that included Senator Mac Middleton of the Charles County Delegation, the County Commissioners, the Board of Education, Sheriff Rex Coffey, and other dignitaries, Bill Stephens, Director of the Charles County Department of Emergency Services, demonstrated the CNS and its advantages to Charles County residents.

Stephens noted that PHASE I begins on April 28. “It’s very simple to become a participating subscriber of CNS. Citizens can access the county website and click on the CNS image to visit the registration page,”

Follow the instructions for the user profile, and you’ll be able to select from a list of categories containing the information that is the greatest interest to you. And, at anytime, you can re-visit the site and update your contact information.

PHASE II is scheduled to premiere in the coming months, and will include registration categories for county announcement, new services, special events, recreational programs, and more.

“Charles County has come a long way since the tragic events of April 28, 2002, and this new system will ensure the safety of the residents of Charles County and improves the County’s communication efforts,” said Richard Muth, Director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

“We hope all of the folks in Charles County will register on the CNS system,” said Cooper. “In this ever-changing world, we all need to be informed and ….have information at our fingertips.”