Wallace says tsunami notifications didn’t go to coast participants

Because of an oversight in preparing the system to send out emergency notifications about last week’s tsunami watch, people living on the coast didn’t receive a notification, while others in the county did, Chuck Wallace, deputy director of Grays Harbor County Emergency Management said last week.

Wallace apologized and said they have found what created the problem and fixed it so it won’t happen again.

The notification system sends automated texts and phone calls to people who have signed up for it.

After the watch was called off, many people called to say they didn’t get a notification even though they signed up for it. The system is operated by a company called Teleira.

Wallace issued a lengthy statement:

“As part of our due diligence, we contacted Teleira to check whether citizens who signed up for the Coastal Notifications actually received the activation. In the past, we have had some who did not receive notice because of a change in phone number or e-mail and at times we discovered information may have been entered with an incorrect letter, number or period.

“This morning, after discussing everything with Teleira, we discovered the Coastal Notification was indeed activated by Grays Harbor Emergency Management to send the Alaska Tsunami Watch information notice, but it failed to be pushed out to the citizens via Teleira due to a technical oversight. The names for the coastal notifications were not in the queue to be sent, so as the notification request was activated, no notifications were sent.”

As lists are updated, Wallace said, they’re sent to Teleira which deletes the old list and adds the new one. “Following notification from Teleira, we check to verify the correct number of people on the list we forwarded to Teleira, matches our list. This did not occur the last time we updated the notification information. As a result, we found the only group not updated, was the coastal group.

“The issue should have been verified by Emergency Management once we received notice the changes were made by Teleira. It wasn’t. Also, due to my haste yesterday morning, in attempting to alert the coastal notification recipients, I did not look to see how many people were in the queue before activating the notification message. As a result and unknown to myself in Emergency Management, none of the coastal recipients received notice via phone call, text or e-mail.”

The issue has been corrected and all entered names have been verified by both Teleira and Grays Harbor Emergency Management, Wallace said. New procedures have been put in place to prevent the problem from happening again including logging information of activations, tests and verification of every group as they are updated, he said.

He said a test of the coastal group will be performed in the near future.

“I apologize for the anger and confusion caused by this situation and accept full responsibility for the non-notice.” Wallace said. “Thank you to those who contacted us to inform about the issue. The people we serve must have trust and faith in the ability of Grays Harbor Emergency Management to inform, notify and help protect them. This event casts a doubt in our abilities to many people. I want to assure you, Grays Harbor County Emergency Management will continue to work to rebuild your trust in our competence and proficiency in the mission we have been charged to accomplish.”