COLORADO SPRINGS — On Thursday, May 12, 2021, as multiple fires burned across Colorado Springs, Peak Alerts were sent out to warn homeowners of evacuation orders.

But on that day, people well outside the targeted zone also received the alerts, causing some homeowners a bit of unecessary panic.

The El Paso-Teller County 911 Authority noted the mistake and started investigating to find out what caused the issue, and how they could prevent it from happening again.

“We want to just target the people that only need to have that information. One, so we’re not trying to move the whole county at once in the event of an evacuation. But number two, we don’t want to impact everybody with an alert if it doesn’t pertain to them,” said Ben Bills, spokesperson for the El Paso-Teller County Authority, at the time.

Now, they said, the problems have been identified as three communication issues which are:

  • The alert reached outside the impacted area.
  • The link contained in the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) did not display a map of the affected area.
  • The location information contained in the alerts could be improved upon.

The 911 Authority noted that the notification using WEA, sent at 11:45 a.m. for Summer Grace Street/Akerman Road, reached countywide. It was generated correctly, the investigation noted, but the shape used to constrain the parameters of the map in Peak Alerts was incompatible with WEA.

Three additional WEAs were sent that day and worked as designed.

Peak Alerts also experienced technical difficulties due to “excessive traffic on the web server” that day, according to the Authority.

Authority leaders said they met with Everbridge leadership on May 31, 2022 and suggested multiple improvements to the software.

The Authority said it’s working to include critical information, such as major cross streets, in the future.

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