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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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1 Comment



February 6, 2012 at 8:01 PM

I recently read an article from October 4, 2001 wtitten by Stuart Tomlinson titled "Into the Flames." The story talks about how two Oregon firefighters saved a 3-year-old girl from a burning house.

The article circled back and reflected on the attacks on September 11. Tomlinson talks about the events of October 4th. He mentions at the end that the firefighters were regarded as heroes. The firefighters said they didn't feel like heroes when they think about all their brothers that died on September 11 when doing the same thing they did.

The story illustrates the night when firefighter McGowan and firefighter Byrne had to overcome many obstacles in order to save the little girl. First, they didn't have a water source close enough to the house to hook up a hose. Second, the driver of the firetruck had to drive over a rickety, flimsy bridge to get the other two firefighters close to the house. Third, since there were no fire hydrants close by the firefighters had to run into the house with only a fire extinguisher.

Thankfully firefighter Byrne made it to the little girl in time. Unfortunately there was a man in the house that didn't make it out. The firefighters had mixed feelings when being referred to as heroes for getting the little girl out because they didn't save everyone.

I think firefighters are heroes simply for putting themselves in danger to save others. That is not an easy job and I don't see why anyone would be inclined to do it. It must be something inside them that they care more about others than themselves, God bless them.

Tomlinson does a very good job illustrating this story in a way that I can connect with the firefighters as well as the family who owned the home. I could feel the horror the grandmother felt for her grandchildren.

I am not a mother but I could only imagine how the firefighters felt when they heard there was a 3-year-old girl trapped in the basement. Firefighter McGowan had a 3-year-old daughter on the night of the fire. His adrenaline was probably fueled by thinking how he would have felt if it was his daughter trapped inside of a burning house.

I don't often read stories like this. Yes, I hear news reports about fires, rescues and tragedies; but not often on my own will. This was a sad but inspirational story about the passion of firefighters.

It did make me think about the firefighters that were there to help on September 11 and the months following the event. It was not necessarily their families trapped in the rubble, but nonetheless they risked their lives to save them.

I have very much appreciation for the Oregon firefighters and firefighters everywhere for doing what they do. Portland is very lucky to have such passionate and dedicated men in their community.

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