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Sheriff: Reverse notifications fail again in JeffCo

8:41 PM, Oct 4, 2012   |    comments
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The sheriff's office initiated reverse emergency notification calls Sunday to warn residents of a suspected armed carjacking suspect who deputies believed was in a residential area of West Bowles Avenue and South Kipling Parkway. Hours later it was determined there was no carjacking suspect.

Within minutes of sending the alert to cell phones and landlines for neighbors in the area, operators started receiving many calls and questions on the sheriff's non-emergency line.

"We started getting feedback from citizens saying they were only getting part of the message," Mink said.

"It was really busy," operator Jennifer Sullivan told 9Wants to Know. "It was like a swarm of bees."

9Wants to Know reviewed inbound calls to the sheriff's non-emergency line shortly after the notification was sent.

"I was going hello, hello and no answer," one caller is heard telling a dispatch operator.

"There was no one there when I answered," said another caller.

"My phone just rang," said a man wanting more information. "When I answered it, it went dead."

Mink says it is clear the reverse notification system did not work as it should have.

Jefferson County's 911 authority board, which is separate from the sheriff's office, contracts with First Call to provide the software and make the emergency notification.

First Call's CEO, Matt Teague, told 9Wants to Know investigator Jace Larson that his company's software "performed perfectly" on Sunday.

He said when 24,000 calls are sent out, he expects some calls to not get through.

"From our experience, this is not only the norm, but the constant," First Call President Matt Teague wrote in an email to 9Wants to Know. "People will call back the Caller ID number that is used on the outgoing message. This number is usually 4 to 5 percent [of the calls]."

"We provide an inbound line free of charge which can be used as the Caller ID and plays back the last message sent out," Teague wrote.

First Call is the company that made reverse emergency notifications, which did not reach all of the intended people during ordered evacuations in the Lower North Fork Fire. Three people died in the March fire and 23 homes were destroyed.

Teague blames those problems on incorrect mapping data provided by Jefferson County.

The head of the Jefferson County 911 Authority Board, Jeffrey Irvin, told 9NEWS he has not completed his analysis of what occurred in the most recent incident on Sunday.

He said he can't comment "accurately, factually and without supposition," until that happens.

Irvin says the 911 Authority is working to find another company to take over for First Call when First Call's contract ends in November.

Mink says until he is confident the reverse notification system is working, he will not rely solely on it.

"With the help of media, like Channel 9, when we have a situation, we will get ahold of them. We will also use Twitter and Facebook to get information out because of our lack of confidence in the system," Mink said.

He still plans to use the emergency notification system along with the other methods.

In Sunday's situation, the man on the run from police turned out not to be a carjacking suspect.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's office says during a routine traffic stop a man ran from Colorado State Patrol troopers. A woman, who troopers later learned was the man's girlfriend, claimed she was a carjacking victim and claimed the man who ran away was the carjacking suspect. Deputies now believe he ran because he had warrants out for his arrest, according to Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley.

He has not been found. His girlfriend was arrested.

Kelley said after deputies learned that information they no longer felt the situation to be an emergency.

Jefferson County sent out a message at 2:36 p.m. using the reverse emergency notification system saying they were no longer looking for a carjacking suspect.

Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson? Call him at 303-871-1432 or e-mail him
jace.larson@9news.com

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