Portland wants residents' phone numbers after water scare

Dec. 4, 2009
Mayor calls for emergency notification solution after E. coli warning

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Mayor Sam Adams called for a new emergency contact system Monday in the wake of a warning about E. coli in the city's water supply.

Over the weekend, the Portland Water Bureau handed down a boil water order because E. coli bacteria were found in a Washington Park reservoir. All businesses and residents were warned that tap water used for drinking and food preparation should be brought to full boil.

The city relied on media and word of mouth to spread the message about the notice. Officials sent press releases and Adams used his own Twitter account to help get the word out.

Emily Martin, who works at Mio Gelato Café, said she first caught wind of the warning via radio.

"Someone came by and told us from the city on Saturday and someone also stopped by on Sunday," Martin said. "It seemed like it was handled effectively."

Not everyone received word of the Saturday afternoon warning in a timely fashion. One Portlander said she first read about it in The Oregonian newspaper on Sunday.

Adams wants the city to improve its communication with Portlanders during important situations. He wants to be able to send a text message or call each person's mobile phone.

"We're going to have to ask Portlanders to turn over some of their privacy," Adams said at a news conference Sunday.

Adams said the city would only keep cell phone numbers and addresses for emergencies.

"We had 50,000 people affected by this particular incident and we had no effective way to contact them directly," he said.

The idea received mixed reviews Monday. Some said that the city should use the emergency alert system if a message is truly urgent.

"They usually use that for emergencies anyway," said Eden Davis, who was shopping in Portland on Monday. "I'm sure he means (well) but we all know of instances where phone numbers have gotten out anyway."

"It would be good to hear about that stuff right away," said Andy Price, who lives in Portland. "(They're) probably not going to sell (the numbers) to companies."

There's no word from the city on how long it would take to establish a new emergency plan.

Adams said no city has been particularly successful in using a citywide cell phone notification system. He said the system would be voluntary and that the city cannot mandate that people do it..

City Calls For Contact System After Water Scare

Copyright 2009 by KPTV.com. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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