PORTLAND – Portland Emergency Management leaders are demanding answers after a failure of their public alert system Wednesday morning.
An emergency alert phone system used by Portland police sent out a false message Wednesday morning, as officers hunted through a residential neighborhood for an armed fugitive.
Police arrested a 20-year-old man early Wednesday in the 6900 block of Southwest Oleson Road who was suspected of shooting an officer and killing a police dog.
The man was one of three who allegedly broke into police equipment store Blumenthal Uniforms.
After a police chase, the man fled from an SUV and ran through the residential neighborhood with an AR-15 assault-style rifle.
Police used a telephone alert system to notify residents that an armed fugitive was in the area, but they said the system malfunctioned.
Residents instead received a call that broadcast a weekly test message from the Bureau of Emergency Management.
Later the intended warning went out and announced:
"There is an active, tactical police incident involving an armed gunman in the neighborhood. Stay inside. Police are actively searching yards on foot. Call 911 to report any suspicious activity."
City officials said the computer system thought police were trying to send a text message and a voice message to each phone. For some reason, the system defaulted to the last message in the system -- a test message, city managers said.
Emergency managers called First Call of Louisiana, who built the system, to correct the problem.
“It’s completely unacceptable. Our system should work when needed and it failed to do so. We are very concerned,” said Carmen Merlo, the Director of Portland's Bureau of Emergency Management. "We take this very seriously and we'll be following up and providing more information as we learn it."
First Call's president Matthew Teague said Thursday the problem was actually caused by human error, and because a Portland user did not listen to the message before it was sent out a test message was sent in its place.
"At no time was there a system or software malfunction, only a user error during the notification and a miscommunication between the caller and the First Call employee during the second call," Teague said.
KGW reporter Pat Dooris contributed to this report.