One Call Now, an emergency notification system that the city contracted with last spring, has been annoying some residents with repeated calls.
Mayor Mike Seferian and some members of council have received several calls from residents complaining about the service, which allows the city to notify the public of emergencies or events.
“I was getting a lot of calls,” said Seferian at a council meeting last month. Council members Jerry Peach, Sandy Bihn and Terry Reeves also received several calls from irate residents about repeated calls from the service.
Seferian said he called Mike Scott, of One Call Now, repeatedly to try and get the system fixed.
“He was out of town, and his voice box was full. I think after 67 tries, he realized I’m pretty good at re-dialing. He did call me back then. I told him to get that thing shut off in the next 15 minutes, or we won’t have this program anymore. He said he couldn’t because he was out of town. I said, `You ought to be able to find someone to hit this thing with an axe or something, but shut it off.”’
Someone was finally able to disarm the system.
The problem was caused by the National Weather Service issuing severe weather watches and warnings, which the system relayed by phone to residents, over a short period of time. The service is not supposed to make calls for weather watches, said Seferian.
“They were very distinctly told we would not be calling people for watches. But somehow, they were making calls for watches as well as warnings,” said Seferian. “The National Weather Service changed and updated the warnings six times. Therefore, their system picked up and made six upgraded calls to people.”
The National Weather Service normally doesn’t make so many updates in such a short period of time, said Seferian.
“But in light of the tornadoes that went through here, they were trying to do the best they could to warn people and try to take every precaution. That’s something they claim they haven’t really done – make upgrades on the same information minutes apart.”
The system also failed to identify completed calls in some instances, prompting it to make repeated calls to the same location, said Seferian.
“So there were people very possibly who could have gotten 20 calls or more, depending on how they responded to the calls. It would accommodate them by calling them back. So there are some safeguards that have been imposed onto the system. Quite frankly, I don’t know what will happen next time. I hope it will be much better,” said Seferian.
“Unless it’s super-catastrophic, two calls become a lot, and 12 is a number you can hardly imagine. We did get a lot of calls the next day. People were very understanding.”
People still like the service, he added, but want it improved.
The system is also used by Wood County, Northwood, Millbury, Walbridge, Lake Township, the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, and Rossford.
“Perrysburg and Rossford also experienced the same problem, so it wasn’t just us,” he said.
The city will continue to monitor the service to make sure it doesn’t annoy so many people again, said Seferian.