KGO's Dan Noyes and Newsom administration duke
on the Sentinel
April 19, 2006
Sentinel readers are invited to referee an ongoing battle for
public opinion between I-Team reporter Dan Noyes of KGO Channel
7 and the Newsom Administration.
We invite our readers to make the call. Who will need the smelling
On November 11, 2005, Dan Noyes filed
a report claiming OES Director Annemarie Conroy failed to
respond to written questions from Noyes about San Francisco's
disaster preparedness emergency siren system.
Editors Note: The Newsom Administration responds calling Noyes'
reporting into question:
From the Newsom Administration:
KGO's last series of reports on the city's emergency preparedness
omitted almost all of the responses prepared for the station.
Why did Dan Noyes ignore the city's comments after DTIS answered
every one of his questions?
In his last series, KGO reported...
Through her spokesperson, Conroy requested our questions in
writing and we sent them yesterday morning. We wanted to know,
"Is the system working properly?" "Why has the
city failed to order the prerecorded messages?" "When
did you plan on telling the Board of Supervisors" about the
cost overruns? No answers from Conroy, as of tonight. [KGO, 11/11/05]
Actually, Mr. Noyes received answers from Conroy and DTIS that
afternoon, sadly he chose to ignore them....
Dan Noyes received an email on Conroy's behalf on 11/11/05 at
9:16am saying that DTIS was the lead agency on this issue... he
ignored it in his report....
Dan Noyes received an email at 1:44pm on 11/11/05 answering all
of his questions, disproving his criticisms...he ignored those
answers in his report also...
Sadly, Mr. Noyes appears to not share everything he knows. The
email trail below seems to show that he is not being honest with
the viewers of KGO-TV....
If you read this, you can't help but wonder about the integrity
of the reporting....
So here are the emails, information that never made it on to KGO-TV....
KGO-TV Email Correspondence
From: "Noyes, Dan" <Dan.Noyes@abc.com>
cc: ANNEMARIE.CONROY@SFGOV.ORG, <RICH.SHORTALL@SFGOV.ORG>,
"Staab,Valari D" <Valari.D.Staab@abc.com>, "Smith,
Glen A"<Glen.A.Smith@abc.com>, "Rimbey,Beth"
This is a list of some of the questions we have about San Francisco's
Outdoor Public Warning System or "siren". We are supplying
these questions at your request, and only because Annemarie Conroy
refuses our request for an interview on this topic. This is not
a public records request. The answers to these questions should
be readily available. Due to production deadlines, we need your
answers by 5pm today, Thursday November 10th.
1) Have you tested the siren's live voice capability?
1a) If so, how many times and on what dates?
1b) How were the results?
1c) Did the system work as designed?
1d) If you have not tested the live voice capability, why not?
2) The owner of ATI confirms to us that the computer system kept
freezing up when you tried to use the voice capabilities, and
that he has had to install a new board in the activation unit
and change the software to get it to work. Is this accurate?
2a) What's the status now?
2b) Is the system working properly?
3) In an on-camera interview 3 weeks ago, the owner of ATI told
us the $2.1 million federal grant paid for the installation of
approximately 60 sirens. He says because of dead spots or "acoustic
shadows", 30 additional sirens will have to be installed
for nearly $1 million. He calls this "phase two" of
the project. The Board of Supervisors was unaware of this additional
cost. When did you plan on telling them of the need for this additional
3a) Why was this added expense not part of the original contract
with ATI? KGO-TV Email Correspondence
3b) Why wasn't the possibility of these dead spots taken into
account in the original plan?
4) Have you tested the system's ability to simultaneously send
different prerecorded messages to different neighborhoods?
4a) If not, why not?
4b) If so, how many times and on what dates?
4c) What were the results?
4d) Did the system perform the way it was supposed to?
5) During the on-camera interview, the owner of ATI told us the
city has not ordered any prerecorded messages; the only one the
city has is the "This is a test" message. Why has the
city failed to order the prerecorded messages?
5a) If you ordered them since our interview with the owner, why
did you wait nearly a year after the implementation of the system
to order the prerecorded messages?
6) Long before our interview with the owner of ATI in which he
revealed the city has not ordered prerecorded messages, Gavin
Newsom and Annemarie Conroy were telling news conferences that
we have the capability to send messages to different neighborhoods
in different languages. Apparently, at the time of those comments,
the city did not have the capability â€" you had
not ordered any prerecorded messages, including ones in different
languages. Several independent emergency experts say that is a
danger for the city to say you have this capability when in fact
you don't. They say it would be a serious problem if disaster
struck, and people were relying on a system that wasn't in place.
What's your answer to that criticism?
7) The mayor said on KGO Radio recently that he can pick up his
cell phone and talk over the city's sirens. Has that capability
7a) If so, what were the results?
7b) If the capability has not been tested, why not?
7c) The independent experts say it is also a danger to be promoting
a capability of the siren that does not exist or has not been
tested. What is your answer to that criticism?
8) OES has declined our request for a demonstration of the siren
system's capabilities. The independent experts say you should
want to show off the system in the interest of public awareness;
they say your reluctance to do so raises questions about potential
problems with the system. What's your answer to that criticism?
I look forward to see your responses as soon as possible. You
may e-mail them to me at this address, or fax them to the number
ABC 7 I-Team
(note: Dan Noyes reports that he received no answers by his
broadcast, the next two emails show he did. 8 hours before the
broadcast! See emails below)
From: "Mayor's Press Director" <PRagone@nextel.blackberry.net>
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2005 17:16:42 To:
"Noyes, Dan" <Dan.Noyes@abc.com>
Subject: Re: interview
Dan. In the interest of being as helpful as possible. I spoke
with ms conroy today and she asked me to inform you that she had
forwarded the questions to DTIS for review as they are the agency
best suited to answer your questions.
Sorry if that wasn't conveyed in writing to you yesterday. In
the future we will be mindful that things should be done in writing
for you so you won't be confused. As you know laura was on vacation,
so I'm pleased to help out.
Have a great veterans day.
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2005 13:44:28 -0800 (PST)
"Darlene Chiu" <email@example.com>
Subject: Your request for information regarding Siren System
CC:KGO-TV Email Correspondence firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
"Peter Ragone" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com,
"Darlene Chiu"<firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
Both Ron Vinson and Laura Adleman were not in the office yesterday
nor today - therefore I was asked to forward and provide this
response to your inquiry of yesterday. The response is from DTIS.
The system has been activated every Tuesday, at Noon, since March
2005. The voice capability has been tested each time. Live voice
capability has been tested several times. It has been proven to
work. However, the coverage area that was pledged to us by the
contractor has been less than promised (1c).
Moreover, this phase of the new system was not designed to provide
full coverage for voice over the entire city. Because of city
topograpy, tall buildings and other barriers, and because of the
greater difficulty in achieving crisp voice transmission, the
City plans to address more complete voice transmission in later
Thankfully, the city recognized that redundancy had to be built
in to the system. At the time that the vendor's computer system
did not function properly, remote computer system was operational
and the Tuesday activations were performed successfully.
This project has not been concluded. Fortunately, the city recognized
that there should be a trial period for the system, in the event
that the contractor did not deliver what it said it would. Therefore,
this system has not been accepted by the City. Until the system
is accepted, it is premature to determine what if any future enhancements
will be sought. However, if we do accept it, we believe that enhancements
will be required, something that the city has said publicly from
the system's inception.
Over the past several weeks, we have been testing the system
and verifying what enhancements are needed so that we could share
those requirements with the city's administrative and legislative
branches of government.
DTIS supports the public safety communications systems for the
City. We continually identify opportunities to enhance, harden
and make secure the City's communications systems. At any given
time, numerous communications projects are being developed and
considered by DTIS and our client departments.
We are proud of the fact that San Francisco is the among the
first in the nation to try to build such an essential system.
We always knew that we would need to closely monitor the performance
of the system since it has never been tried before.
please see above
The dead spots were taken into account. Due to manufacturing
defects and under performance by the contractor, ATI, the "dead
spots" are more than we originally thought.
The short answer is no. The City does not test different prerecorded
messages, because we have determined that it is in the best interests
of the system to use live messaging capability -- outside of the
one prerecorded test message (4a). In addition you should know
that we have tested the system's sites grouped by neighborhood
which demonstrates our ability to tailor messages by location.
The system has been tested every Tuesday since March 2005 (4b).
The system has been activated remotely via wireless device as
well, from different neighborhoods. This feature worked (4c and
You allege that the city "failed" to order pre-recorded
messages. In fact, the city never intended to order prerecorded
messages. The City chose to require a system that would support
live voice messages due to our analysis that there is such an
incredible range of messages (and several languages)that might
be required. It is best that we don't have pre-recorded messages
and instead rely on live voice message capabilities. Perhaps ATI
sell these messages for profit.
In addition, the city's ECD has multi lingual staff on call 24
hours a day.
Therefore, we have the capability to broadcast messages in Mandarin,
Cantonese and Spanish at ALL TIMES.
According to your quote, neither the Mayor nor Ms. Conroy told
the news conference that the simultaneous multi-lingual messages
would be prerecorded.
You write that "apparently...the city did not have the capability..."
to send messages to different neighborhoods in different languages.
That is false. The criticism is without basis. We have the ability
to "send messages to different neighborhoods in different
Yes, the remote operation via wireless device has been tested
it work as planned.
The system has been demonstrated in public on at least two occasions.
We hope that the "independent experts" you cite are
aware of that. If they are not, we would be pleased to discuss
it with them, don't hesitate to forward their contact information
to us. In addition, the system is tested every Tuesday at 12:00pm.
Editor's Note: In round 3, Noyes responds with a flurry:
The first point I want to make is the note from the Mayors
Press Office begins, KGOs last series of reports on
the citys emergency preparedness
and goes on
to discuss our Siren report from last year. Id like to point
out that our latest report on the citys emergency preparedness
aired just last night. On the anniversary of the great quake,
we revealed that the city does not have a completed earthquake
emergency plan. OES Director Annemarie Conroy and Mayor Newsom
told us it would be done by the end of last year, but its
not. You can see the story at http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=i_team&id=4091165.
You can also read the complete e-mail chains showing how difficult
its been to get interviews with Mayor Newsom and Director
Conroy, and how difficult its been to get documents that
should be available under the California Public Records Act. We
first asked for the emergency plans ten months ago, and have not
received many important documents. Weve also streamed our
complete interview with the Mayor on our site, and our News Director
has posted a blog that answers many of the questions now being
raised by the Mayors Office.
Now, to the gist of the specific story in question
November, I reported serious problems with the citys emergency
siren system, even though the Mayor had been touting its capabilities.
I also revealed that the manufacturer of the siren system needed
$1 million more to fix the system. All this came as news to the
Board of Supervisors. Several members were unhappy that the Mayors
Office had not been more forthcoming about the problems and the
To the specific points of the Mayors Office claims
theyve not provided important context for this discussion.
Heres the applicable portion of our script, as aired:
We've been trying for a month now to speak with Office of Emergency
Services Director Annemarie Conroy. We went so far as to meet
her on the way to work one morning last week.
Annemarie Conroy: "Hi."
Dan Noyes: "Good morning, Annemarie. I'd like to talk to
Annemarie Conroy: "I'm not going to do that right now."
We waited two hours and Conroy never came back out of her house.
She was late to work on this day. Through her spokesperson, Conroy
requested our questions in writing and we sent them yesterday
morning. We wanted to know, "Is the system working properly?"
"Why has the city failed to order the prerecorded messages?"
"When did you plan on telling the Board of Supervisors"
about the cost overruns? No answers from Conroy, as of tonight.
Aaron Peskin, President, Board of Supervisors: "The next
step is the Board of Supervisors is going to start asking questions,
we have the unlimited power of inquiry. If I need to subpoena
people I will. I want to know why the people of San Francisco
and the Board of Supervisors have not been told really what's
going on here."
We requested an interview with Gavin Newsom. No word back as
of air time. We'll try to catch up to him on Monday. His office
sent some information about the sirens this afternoon. It admits
they are having coverage issues. It says that the live-voice capability
is working, and they are working to resolve all the problems.
Also today, the city attorney sent a letter to ATI threatening
a lawsuit if the company doesn't fix the system by the end of
December. But clearly, there's enough blame to go around at City
Hall and OES.
You can see the entire script at http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=i_team&id=3627030.
What we reported was factual and fair. Annemarie Conroy refused
to do an interview. We tried for weeks to get answers from her
office. As a last resort, we sent questions the morning of November
10th, the day before air, asking them to provide the answers by
5pm because of production deadlines. The Mayors Office missed
that deadline, and finally sent us answers the afternoon of the
following day. We accurately summarized what happened. We did
not get any answers from Ms. Conroy. We did not hear back from
Mayor Newsom about an interview, but his office provided some
answers late on the day of air. We summarized those answers at
the end of our story.
If you look closely at the questions I asked and the responses
provided by Darlene Chiu of the Mayors Office, youll
see why we insist on interviews that allow follow-up questions.
Chiu does not answer many of the questions asked.
Im quite careful about tracking e-mail, and I dont
recall seeing the one from the Mayors Press Director 43
minutes before the story aired. In the big picture, this entire
discussion could have been avoided if the staffs of the Mayors
Office and OES provided information and documents to us in a timely
if OES Director Annemarie Conroy and Mayor Newsom
would sit down with us for interviews on these matters of great
public importance. The Mayor insists we catch up to him on the
run at some public event; it hardly provides the opportunity for
a thoughtful give and take. Ms. Conroy refuses to speak with us
at all and its not just me. Just yesterday, she gave
the same treatment to our reporter Mark Matthews.
This is all about serving the public. We ask the questions on
behalf of our viewers. Its up to public officials to provide
those important answers
to us and to their constituents.
Editor's Note: There's the bell. You make the call. Send
your responses to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org