Excuse Me, Were You Sleeping?

Where were you at 3 AM on Thursday, April 10th?  Sleeping, maybe? That is unless you were one of the chosen to receive a call from the City of SeaTac informing you of a regional outage of the 911 services!

Back in January of 2011, we published a posting in the Angle Lake Shore Club Blog informing our residents of an auto-dialer notification service that City of SeaTac Emergency Communications subscribed to called CodeRED.  As the article explained this service provides emergency officials the ability to broadcast a single message out to a very large number of affected residents within the City simultaneously. While the post encouraged our Angle Lake area residents to sign up for the service, I’m not sure how many actually were provoked in doing so at that time.

But for those who did sign up they experienced a real life example of the service in action on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 when calls were targeted to residents and businesses in the Angle Lake area warning of a police canine assisted pursuit of a criminal on the loose in the area with a request that area residents remain within their homes until further notice. This too was posted in the blog and I can only assume that more people were motivated to sign up when they learned that they did not receive that same call!

Fast forward to Thursday, April 10th, 2014 and again the system was activated to outdial all SeaTac Residents who were signed up for CodeRED notification to receive a message alerting them that a region-wide outage of the Emergency 911 service was occurring and informed listeners of alternative methods to seek emergency assistance. Based on the number of comments received in our ALSC email inbox about this service it appears that we may have achieved some limited success encouraging people to sign up for the CodeRED service however, it was also apparent that several persons were not so thrilled to have received a call in the middle of the night (3 am actually)! 

It has also become apparent that the ALSC Blog was not the only one who received feedback from the community about this particular call as City Manager Todd Cutts wrote us with the following information to share:

Please see below for the article we posted in the City Manager’s Weekly Update.  Along with the Fire Chief, I was involved in making the call to put out the Code Red.  Given the 3am timing, it certainly wasn’t a decision we took lightly.  

Did you get our call? 
Early on a recent Thursday morning our regional 9-1-1 system experienced an interruption of service that impacted residents in both Washington and Oregon State. Because of the significant threat to public safety created by the interruption of this vital emergency communications link, a decision was made to notify our community of the outage immediately and provide them with another phone number for emergency services.

Some residents have expressed dissatisfaction with that decision.  While it was not an easy one to make (nobody likes to wake their neighbors from a sound sleep at 3AM), we believe it was the only responsible one. Heart attacks and house fires don’t always happen during the daytime hours. The obvious concern for City leaders was in considering the potential outcome had no information been shared and one of our residents experienced a life threatening medical or other emergency.

As a community we’ve become accustomed to ready access of Police and Fire resources in our moment of need. One can only imagine the panic experienced by a homeowner when unsuccessfully trying to reach police as another person was attempting to force entry into their home. Therefore, a failure to provide another phone number to our community when one was readily available seemed unconscionable.

The City of SeaTac intentionally chooses to use our emergency notification system sparingly. It’s our belief that in doing so, community members will recognize the importance of a message when sent out. While we acknowledge that any wakeup call at 3 AM is disturbing, we consider it our responsibility to take the necessary steps to protect you and your neighbors. We encourage all our residents to continue to sign up for CodeRED notifications and not define any barriers that may interfere in our getting that important message to you.
Todd Cutts
City Manager

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