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PORTLAND-- By late Friday morning, automated phone calls were being made to warn Portland residents to boil their drinking water.

But the calls weren t complete until roughly 3:45 p.m., according to officials with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.

That means some people received a call warning of the potential E. coli contamination of the city s water supply nearly four-and-a-half hours after the boil alert was issued.

More: Boil water alert lifted

Unfortunately that s the case, said Felicia Heaton with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. It goes back to the capacity of the phone system.

Heaton said 461,674 automated phone calls were made Friday.

The phone system only has so much capacity to make phone calls. So we have to start with a chunk of phone numbers, make those calls and cycle through group after group after group, she said.

The automated calls went out after the city activated its community emergency notification system, which is also known as PublicAlerts.

Along with phone calls, messages were also sent out via text and email.

The texts and emails went out almost immediately, said Heaton.

But there s a catch: They only went to people who previously signed up for PublicAlerts and registered their cell phone numbers or email addresses.

The take away from Friday and Saturday is that we really need everyone to go to PublicAlerts.org, register their mobile phone numbers, their email addresses, so we can get those notifications out more quickly, Heaton said.

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