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Stress Test of Portland Emergency Notification System Reveals Serious Flaws

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At 11:00 a.m., January 26th, the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) initiated the first-ever, citywide test of Portland’s relatively new community notification system operated by Louisiana-based vendor First Call. Despite previous small-scale successes activating the system for neighborhood emergencies, First Call was able to reach less than one percent of the targeted population during today’s citywide test. 

“Clearly, this failure is a disappointment. If First Call cannot adequately and immediately resolve the problem, we’ll have to reevaluate our service contract with them,” said PBEM Director Carmen Merlo. “We expected some room for improvement with this ambitious test. We did not expect this high degree of failure.”

First Call President Matthew Teague issued this statement in reaction to the failure: “The City of Portland’s notification system is a highly customized and powerful portal which has been built from scratch to meet the needs of the City. With any new software, load testing under live conditions is necessary to reveal issues that internal or small scale testing will miss and the problems encountered today are currently being addressed.”

During this citywide test of the First Call-operated system, PBEM attempted to send a single message via landline phone, cell phone, text, and email to about 317,000 Portlanders as quickly as possible. First Call reached only about 2,100 during the test.

Once these issues are resolved, PBEM is committed to testing the system again to ensure it is working properly at any scale. Greater participation in future tests will ensure a larger sample group and help PBEM gauge the system’s functionality. Merlo encourages Portlanders to register for future notifications by signing up at Personal contact information provided during registration is kept private and used only for the purpose of sending geographically tailored emergency messages.




   Portland Fire & Rescue 

   We Respond: Always Ready, Always There

   January 26, 2012


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Firefighters from Oregon & California Take Skills to Lima, Peru

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Portland Firefighters Ed Resch, Brian Profit, Don Gresham and Al Burns will be joining firefighters from Clackamas Fire District #1Keizer Fire District, Santa Clara County Fire Department, and San Francisco Fire Department to travel to Lima, Peru in March on a firefighter training mission.

Resch, Profit, Gresham, Burns, and other fellow firefighters will spend three weeks from March 18th to April 7th in the capital and largest city of Peru, teaching local police (National Policia) and public safety responders and officials Emergency Medical Response (EMS) and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) skills. This trip to Lima will be the first time the group of firefighters will travel and serve together.  Training will include intense hands-on skills as well as classroom lecture.  A veteran interpreter will be joining the firefighters as a resource. During that time, the firefighters will call the Lima Police compound “home.”

The trip was arranged through Global Mission Readiness (GMR), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and training to firefighters and rescue workers in developing nations. GMR was founded just under four years ago by Lieutenant Don Davis of Clackamas County Fire District 1.  GMR sends veteran firefighters, medical providers, and rescue personnel from the United States to countries with less advanced training.  Normally, mission such as this is planned over a 12 to 14 period.  This mission was planned in less than two months. Because of this short time window, it has been difficult to coordinate fundraising efforts and events to help support travel costs and other supplemental expenses.

Firefighter Resch teaches Haitians about proper nutrition and water treatment

Resch, a firefighter at Portlandfor over 14 years, has never traveled to Peru on a GMR mission or otherwise. He has, however, traveled to Haiti and Ghana, Africa. Resch joined GMR as a volunteer five years ago, and feels strongly towards supports GMR’s mission to provide education and resources necessary in developing nations.

Firefighter Resch teaching EMS class to first responders in Ghana

Resch notes, “I have seen first-hand how this training can make a difference in peoples’ lives. The most rewarding part of these missions is knowing that the people that take our courses will use the skills they learn to save the lives of others.”  

To learn more about the goals, missions planned, and how to donate to Global Mission Readiness, visit Any donations made will aid the firefighters in their travels as well as purchase equipment needed to teach the EMS and USAR courses.  Emergency equipment purchased to teach on will be donated to the public safety responders in Lima, Peru.



     Portland Fire & Rescue 

     We Respond: Always Ready, Always There

     January 27, 2012


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PF&R In the News: Portland Firefighters Risk Their Lives, Rescue Man From Frigid Willamette River

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Portland Fire & Rescue - IN THE NEWS

By: Lynne Terry, The Oregonian

January 26, 2012

Portland Firefighters Risk Their Lives, Rescue Man From Frigid Willamette River

Portland, OR: Portland firefighters pulled a man from the frigid, swift Willamette River about midnight Wednesday in a perilous rescue that threatened to take at least two men’s lives.

It’s not known how or when the 30-year-old man, Joel Hinrichs, fell into the swollen, murky river, but his screams for help were heard about 11:15 p.m. by a Portland cyclist, Dan Sinclair, who was riding south along the Eastbank Esplanade. Sinclair spotted Hinrichs thrashing in the current about 25 yards offshore near the Burnside Bridge and darted to Fire Station 21 at the Hawthorne Bridge for help.

Portland firefighters from Station 1 conducted a rescue drill yesterday in the Willamette River. Firefighters on personal watercrafts practiced pulling teammates to safety. High water and debris make for a dangerous mix. Wednesday a man was pulled from the river and saved.

Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian

Two men onshore who were fishing for sturgeon, Sam Policar and Justin Wisdom, tried to snag the man with a hook and reel him to the bank. The river’s currents pushed him closer as Wisdom poked one of his coat sleeves through a fence, allowing the man to grab it.

Just then Portland firefighters Mike Held and Bill Schimel raced up in a personal watercraft. With Held steering, Schimel dangled off the platform on the back, trying to grab Hinrichs. But he was so big, about 200 pounds, and the currents were so swift that Schimel was having a tough time. A 34-year-old rescue swimmer, Schimel had to dive into the water to get a hold of Hinrichs.

That was treacherous.

The current swept over them toward a massive field of logs about 100 yards downstream. Schimel knew if he lost his grip, Hinrichs would slide under the debris and be killed. Schimel risked being towed under, too.

"The water was the worse I’ve seen it," Schimel said. "We got submerged a couple of times with the current ripping up against us."

He said it was the most dangerous rescue he's experienced in his 12 years as a Portland firefighter.

Held, realizing the peril, got Policar to lean over the railing onshore and hold the craft steady while he let go of the handle bars and jumped back to the platform. Also a big guy, Held took Schimel’s hand and pulled him up, and together they rescued Hinrichs.

Hinrichs, clearly intoxicated and bleeding from gashes in his head, was fully clothed, with boots, jacket and backpack. 

“He was out of it,” Schimel said.

Held sped to the Hawthorne Bridge fire station where Hinrichs was lifted onto the dock and treated by medics.

He was taken to OHSU Hospital. A spokesman said today he is in fair condition.

Schimel is fine, too.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that too much longer and he would have slipped away,” Schimel said. “But it worked out so I’m happy.”


  Portland Fire & Rescue 

   We Respond: Always Ready, Always There

   January 27, 2012 


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NEWS RELEASE 01/29/12: Portland Fire & Rescue Quick Fire Response Thwarts Further Damage in NE Portland this Afternoon

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January 29, 2012

1:14 PM

Portland firefighters from Station 19 located in the Mount Tabor neighborhood, along with three other local stations, responded to a report of a shed on fire at 135 NE 78th Avenue just a couple of minutes before noon today. Upon arrival, the officer on E19 reported a large shed fully-involved in fire that was critically threatening a home right next to it.

While the driver of E19 was hooking supply hoses up to a nearby fire hydrant, the remaining two firefighters with assistance from two addiditonal firefighters from Rescue 19 were able to quickly mount an exterior attack and successfully knock down the bulk of heat and fire from the shed while also protecting the exterior of the home. This is another example of the benefit that residents of the City of Portland experience from having fully-staffed fire stations located strategically throughout the city. Fires grow exponentially with every minute they are allowed to burn and this one was extinguished right at the critical time that kept losses at a much lower extent.

An ambulance was called to examine a male occupant of the home for minor burns and scrapes that he received while trying to extinguish the fire before our arrival. Portland Fire would like to remind residents that the first priorty in the event of a fire is to retreat to a safe environment and then call 9-1-1. Too often, well intentioned people are hurt or killed trying to fight a fire without the proper training or equipment. The fire environment is an extremely dangerous one to be in and a small fire can erupt into a life-threatening one much more quickly than a normal person can react to. Luckily the injuries sustained in this fire were minor enough that the occupant did not require transport to the hospital.

The fire was declared under control within ten minutes of arrival, with damages to the shed enough for it to be declared a total loss and no damage reported to the house.


  Portland Fire & Rescue 

   We Respond: Always Ready, Always There

   January 29, 2012 


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NEWS RELEASE 01/29/12: Extensive Damage to Home in SE Portland this Evening After Neighbors Report it to be Involved in Fire

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January 29, 2012

9:06 PM

Portland firefighters from Station 11 located in the Lents neighborhood responded to a fire involved in a home at 6725 SE 77th Avenue at 8:06 pm this evening. Upon arrival six minutes later, the officer on Engine 11 reported a smaller home with smoke and fire showing from the rear and sides of the house. Firefighters from Engine 11 and Rescue 11 immediately pulled handlines and mounted an interior attack while the crew from Truck 25 went to the roof to open up ventilation holes in order to clear some of the heat and smoke to assist the interior firefighters in locating the seat of the fire. Other crews from neighboring stations also assisted the effort by manning back up lines, searching the structure for fire victims, securing utilities, and staffing a Rapid Intervention Team whose primary mission is to rescue downed firefighters in the case of a catastrophic event.

While searching the home for potential fire victims, firefighters discovered a hole in the floor in one of the bedrooms that posed a dangerous situation for the interior crews. Due to the limited visibility and high temperatures within a building on fire, firefighters often work from a crawling position. All to often, hazards such as holes in floors are not discovered until a firefighter falls through one. Fortunately this one was discovered without that happening. �@

The fire was under control within 15 minutes of arrival, but damage to the home was extensive. The fire cause is unknown at this time, but a fire investigator is on scene examining clues to determine the cause. Portland Fire does not anticipate a cause or damage estimates release until at least mid-Monday morning.


  Portland Fire & Rescue 

   We Respond: Always Ready, Always There

   January 29, 2012 


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