911 call system tested on Hayden Island residents

Public Alert System is regularly tested internally

A 911 dispatch call center, April 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A 911 dispatch call center, April 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — When Portland issued its boil water notice in May, many people didn’t get an automated alert for hours.

Thursday, the city’s Bureau of Emergency Management ran a test of the Public Alerts System, an effort to improve the speed of the calls.

The Public Alerts System is what is used to send information to citizens from boil water alerts to dangerous situations in a neighborhood.

This test by landline, email and cell phone was sent to hundreds of previously registered residents in Hayden Island.

“Instead of doing our internal test we do on a weekly basis, it enables us to actually talk to the public and send out a test message and make sure they clearly get it,” said Dan Douthit with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.

The test took about five minutes to reach 600 lines.

But in May — during the boil water notice — an alert was sent to 461,000 lines and took more than four hours.

Douthit said there’s really no way to know for sure if the improvements they’ve made since that time will work, “unless we activate again at the citywide level.”

He said they went into the “database of numbers we have and look for numbers that we could remove that were perhaps duplicates or a single business that has many numbers in the system.”

But the process is ongoing, he said, and will improve as technology improves.

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