http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/05/post_86.html reveals the supervisor at Portland's Bureau of Emergency Communications did not know how to activate a reverse 9-1-1 phone system that could have warned nearby residents last week of chemical fumes escaping from Precision Castparts, according to a city review of what went wrong.
The BOEC supervisor on duty contacted the wrong bureau to activate the system. The supervisor contacted the Portland Police Bureau to put in place its Portland Emergency Notification System, but that system became defunct in July 2009, the city analysis showed.
The BOEC supervisor was not aware that Portland's new FirstCall system was activated in December 2010, under the oversight of Portland's Office of Emergency Management.
The incident started Wednesday with a power outage at Precision Castparts, located where boundaries for Milwaukie, Portland and unincorporated Clackamas County converge on Southeast Johnson Creek Boulevard.
After the electricity went out, the company switched to a backup generator but was unable to power up the pollution-control equipment, resulting in release of a cloud that consisted of hydrofluoric acid, nitric acid fumes and nitrogen dioxide, according to incident reports and DEQ officials.
"During the incident there was a lack of adequate and clear communication between the multiple agencies as it related to the community notification system,'' the city's analysis said.
Further, BOEC and Portland's Office of Emergency Management lacked clear written protocols for activating the new FirstCall system. The system is managed by POEM and the Portland Water Bureau. When activated, it can notify residents in a geographic area through published land line phone numbers, unpublished numbers, cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses that residents allow into the system.
The emergency management bureau tested the system in the Johnson Creek area of Southeast Portland on April 27. But the final approval of the warning system is not scheduled to be adopted by the City Council until the end of June, city reports show.
The analysis found that additional training is needed on the new system and the steps to activate it. Training will be provided to BOEC and Portland's public safety and emergency response bureaus.
In the wake of last week's incident, city policy has been updated to clarify procedures for activating the reverse 9-1-1 system. Requests for activation must now be coordinated through POEM, via the POEM duty officer or POEM director. BOEC will also now come up with internal protocols for its use and activation, according to the city analysis.
The city also tonight released a time line of what occurred last Wednesday night, showing that by the time officials figured out who was responsible for activating the system, it was too late.