A misconception about the emergency notification system left some Waldo Canyon Fire evacuees waiting for a reverse 911 call that never came.
As flames crept closer to the Grand Centennial Apartments on June 26, resident Sandy Lahmann said she had started packing and was ready to go.
She was just waiting for the emergency notification call.
"When I saw on the news reports about how (the fire) was getting close, I kind of had a false sense of security thinking, 'Oh, I haven't gotten a reverse 911 call, so I must be OK,'" said Lahmann.
She said that the day after the fire started, she had done some research online about the emergency notification system.
"I saw something that said, 'If you have a land line that is listed, you don't need to register for reverse 911,' so I assumed I was already in the system," said Lahmann.
She's since learned that's not true. Lahmann never got a call when evacuation orders were issued for her complex.
El Paso-Teller E-911 says some landlines are automatically in the notification database, but others don't make it there. Spokesman Ben Bills said the agency is now working to find out why that's the case, and look at individual phone numbers, like Lahmann's, to see why it wasn't in the system.
In the meantime, the recommendation is for everyone to take steps to register their phone number whether it's a land line or not.
"I think it's important for folks to realize that we just don't use that for an evacuation for a fire," said Bills. "It could be for any type of emergency where there's an imminent threat to somebody's safety."
Bills said an independent investigation is being planned to look into how the notification system worked during the fire. Questions remain about how effective it was, including why about 22,000 calls were listed as "abandoned," for reasons that aren't clear.
Bills said there should be more answers in the next few weeks.