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Contra Costa Officials Admit Flaws With Community Warning System

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Smoke rises from the scene of a fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, August 6, 2012. (James P.)

Smoke rises from the scene of a fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, August 6, 2012. (James P.)

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RICHMOND (KCBS) – Contra Costa officials conceded on Tuesday that the phone ring-down system for their Community Warning System may never work perfectly in large emergency events. That assessment was based on its performance during the August 6th fire at the Chevron Refinery.

The county’s community warning system took approximately three hours to phone messages to shelter-in-place during the toxic fire. That same system has historically been problematic during large-scale events. The manager of the community warning system, Katherine Hern, told Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia the phone vendor has not met expectations.

“Our current vendor claims that there’s some 20,000 calls that should have been made in approximately 20-30 minutes,” Hern said, adding that it may never perform to the community’s needs or expectations in these types of major emergency situations. The actual time it took to make the calls was more like three hours.

<strong>KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports:</strong>

Hearn said nearly 25 percent of the calls were delayed because there was no answer on the other end.

Meanwhile, Health Services Director Dr. William Walker updated the number of people affected by the toxic smoke that emitted from Chevron and put that figure at 14,000 who sought medical treatment.

“Most had suffered minor irritation from the release. Only three folks were hospitalized,” Walker said.

County officials have said they will seek new vendors and technology to increase the efficiency of the flawed ring-down system.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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