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 8,100 residents 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 www.PublicAlerts.org. Personal contact information provided during registration is kept private and used only for the purpose of sending geographically tailored emergency messages.