Portland’s inability to notify residents of an armed gunman in a quiet neighborhood for hours on Wednesday is just the latest failure for the contractor used to provide emergency alerts since 2010, reports the Oregonian. Carmen Merlo, director of the city’s Bureau of Emergency Management, said she has a “growing lack of confidence” in FirstCall, the Louisiana-based company that covers Portland and Multnomah County. She described Wednesday’s failure as “completely inexcusable.”
The incident comes as Portland tries to figure out how to fund the fledgling system when federal grants are longer available starting in July. FirstCall has provided emergency alert notification software to the city and Multnomah County since 2010 and has an $82,000-a-year contract through August. Matt Teague, FirstCall’s president, said the city’s account of Wednesday’s incident was false. Portland’s emergency notification system has 320,000 devices – meaning landlines, cell phones and emails mainly – that can receive alerts via the FirstCall software.