The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) and Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) have concluded problems with the use of Portland’s community emergency notification system (CENS) last Wednesday morning (4/16) during an active shooter incident in southwest Portland are the result of issues with both the vendor First Call and how the system was launched by the city.
After the Portland Police Bureau requested the activation of CENS to send a safety message to residents in the area, a BOEC Dispatch Supervisor launched the system at 4:01 a.m. The message successfully texted cell phones and email addresses in the affected area, but sent out an incorrect voice message to landline phones. PBEM and BOEC believe this was because the Dispatch Supervisor was unclear about which setting to use for the custom safety message or if the application had launched any message at all.
Upon recognizing that the system had launched a message erroneously, the Dispatch Supervisor immediately called First Call’s technical assistance hotline to ask for assistance sending out the correct message to landline phones. The Dispatch Supervisor made the correct request to the hotline, as demonstrated by an audio tape of the call for technical assistance. First Call then launched the system a second time at 4:41 a.m., repeating the error and sending an incorrect voice message to landline phones in the affected area.
At 5:14 a.m., First Call successfully sent the safety message. At 7:21 a.m., a final “all clear” message was successfully issued by First Call.
To ensure a similar problem does not occur in the future, PBEM and BOEC will review all procedures, settings and training provided to users of the system, and work directly with First Call to modify user settings to streamline the message launch process.