City hurricane robocalls run all night
Feeling a little groggy this morning? Maybe you can blame it on one of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's Hurricane robocalls.
It seems the automated phone calls the city began making to several hundred thousand residents Friday afternoon were supposed to stop at 9 p.m. The mayor's recorded voice reminded constituents that Hurricane Irene was on the way, and urged them to stock up on food, water and emergency supplies in case of prolonged power outages.
It was a fine plan, until the computer server doing the work neglected to shut off at 9 p.m., as officials had directed. It apparently ran all night, until someone discovered the problem after 7 a.m. Saturday, and pulled the plug.
City spokesman Rico Singleton apologized, and described the issue as an "equipment malfunction." But whether it was a hardware glitch or a programming error, residents who were awakened in the middle of the night by their phones - and the mayor's voice - probably aren't very happy with the city this morning.
Lynn McLain, a northwest Baltimore resident in her 60s, whose phone rang at 4:17 a.m., never did get back to sleep. "Had it been an emergency evacuation, I could see calling. But I don't see calling to tell you you need to get canned food ... I hung up after the canned food."
"I felt myself thinking, 'What did this cost, as a taxpayer?' I also thought, 'She's going to lose more votes that she's going to get from this phone call.' ... Is it even a function of government to call and tell us to buy canned food? Get the TV stations to make an announcement," McLain said.
Singleton said the city plans to rely, in the future, on less disruptive text messages and email for such calls. But not everyone uses those technologies. For critical alerts, he said, robocalls may still be utilized.
Did you get the call? Your thoughts?
(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, January 2011)