Lapse means reverse 9-1-1 calls did not go out during toxic spill

A dispatch supervisor at the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications did not know how to activate the city's reverse 9-1-1 system last week when a toxic cloud floated from Precisions Castparts.

As a result, Multnomah County residents living near the manufacturing plant were not notified during the late afternoon May 11 that their lives could be in danger.

• Click here to read the city's analysis of the May 11 reverse 9-1-1 incident.

A city analysis of the incident released Wednesday showed that the dispatcher was not aware that the city had changed its so-called reverse 9-1-1 system two years ago. It had originally required notification of the Portland Police Bureau to activate the system. The city subsequently contracted with the private FirstCall company for the service, however. Since then it can only be activated by the Portland Office of Emergency Management and the Portland Water Bureau.

'The BOEC supervisor on duty was not aware of Portland's new FirstCall system, which was activated in December 2010,' according to the city's analysis.

The request for the notification was relayed from emergency responders on the scene of the incident.

The analysis says that internal policies have since been updated and dispatch employees will be trained in them.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz oversees the emergency communications bureau. Mayor Sam Adams oversees the Office of Emergency Management, which contracted for the FirstCall system.

No one was hurt by emissions released during the incident.

Complaints about system

The lapse is another black eye for the emergency communication bureau, however, which has recently been criticized for operational and unexpected costs associated with the replacement 9-1-1 dispatch system that was activated on April 17.

The bureau's user board is expected to discuss all these issues when it meets Thursday afternoon. The group represents police, fire and medical responders that depend on information provided by the system in Multnomah County. Complaints include problems reading dispatches on computers in police vehicles while driving to calls to an unexpected $2 million in additional maintenance cost.

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