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Following last week’s citywide emergency notification test, Portland Mayor Sam Adams today urged residents to register their cell phone numbers (for voice and text messages) and email addresses at PublicAlerts.org. During the test, vendor First Call needed twice as long as it predicted to push voice messages through the local phone system. By contrast, the emails and text messages it sent were delivered rapidly. To receive those timely alerts, one must sign up at PublicAlerts.org.
“During a major emergency, quickly-delivered, geographically-tailored alerts can save lives. But we can’t protect you with this technology unless you provide us with your cell phone number for text messages and your email address,” said Mayor Adams. All the information provided during PublicAlerts.org registration is kept private and confidential. It will be used only for emergency notifications, he added.
The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) has initiated conversations with First Call and local telephone service provider CenturyLink to determine the feasibility of reaching landline and cell phones more quickly during future notifications.
During the test held at 11:00 a.m. last Thursday (2/9/12), First Call delivered 320,637 voice messages, 2,430 text messages and 5,360 emails to devices within city limits. The last voice message was delivered at 5:50 p.m. that day. If you had already signed up at PublicAlerts.org but did not receive a test message Thursday, send an email to PublicAlerts@portlandoregon.gov with your name and phone number and the city will research the cause of the problem.
While First Call’s notification system is a useful tool for communicating specific alerts to specific audiences, it is not intended as the primary means for reaching a mass audience quickly. For that, the city relies on the Emergency Alert System, traditional broadcast media, social media and other communication channels.