AUDIO: We Review The City’s Test “Burien Alert” Phone Call. Heard It Yet?

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On Wednesday, Oct. 6th, the city tested its new “Burien Alert” system by sending out automated, recorded messages to resident homes and cell phones, and yes, they even sent out emails as well.

We got calls on both our cell and home number, and luckily, we were able to record it. Of course, now that we have a recording of this test call, we can’t just sit back.

Nope, we’ve got to review it. Play with it. Have fun. “Cuz that’s how we roll.

First, here’s a recording of the call in its raw form – this is how it sounded when you picked up the phone:

Being that we’ve done our fair share of audio production work in both Seattle and Hollywood, we felt that this effort fell um, a little flat; here are our notes:

  • First off, our rule is to always start with a positive note: Hey, good idea cityfolk – this is definitely a worthy investment of money. Unless of course the phone lines all go down, cell towers fail and we’re all without any power. Then, um…oops…
  • With that said, we’d like to point out that the audio recording was weak. No authority, and yes, the version they’re using actually includes a mistake – listen to the Announcer stumble on the word “information”:
  • Quite frankly, we think the voice talent should be replaced. There are a plethora of local voice actors that would be happy to work on this project, including Burien’s own Henry Dardenne, the snarky voice of those wacky Pemco Insurance ads.
  • Also, the production quality sounds like it was recorded on a Windows 95 machine in a city-owned building on SW 152nd. C’mon, we can do better than that B-Town! Here’s a sample remix version that we think would get people’s attention right away in any emergency:

Now, did you notice the scream we used at the start of that? Yes, that’s the infamous Wilhelm Scream,” a stock sound effect first used in 1951 for the film “Distant Drums.” According to Wikipedia, actor-singer Sheb Wooley is considered to be the most likely voice actor for the scream, having appeared on a memo as a voice extra for the film. In “The Charge at Feather River” (1953), the scream is heard when a soldier named Pvt. Wilhelm (played by Ralph Brooke) gets shot in the leg by an arrow. And now, the City of Burien could use it, since it’s considered public domain!

That’s okay cityfolk – you can download this MP3 for free and use it. No charge!

We can’t wait ’til this gets used after a real disaster…

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5 Responses to “AUDIO: We Review The City’s Test “Burien Alert” Phone Call. Heard It Yet?”
  1. And B-Towners who sign up for Burien ALERT are able to receive notifications in a number of ways (alas, with sound effects is not yet an option).

    Not signed up for Burien ALERT? You can do so at

  2. Terri says:

    I appreciated the simple, direct, and to the point announcement. I don’t remember signing up – but appreciated knowing the system was there and it does work. Yeah I know if there is a real disaster that my phones may not work…. but not all emergencies will knock out the phones.

    I have to say – the sound effects in the alternative announcement made it very difficult to hear the content of the message.

  3. Howie says:

    I live and work in Burien, and signed up for the alerts some weeks ago.

    I received no alerts at all on Wednesday, neither by phone nor via email. I went back to the city’s Website yesterday and confirmed that my information was indeed still there, and remains correct.

    This alert system is hardly inspirational of confidence if it fails to work properly despite my having provided accurate contact information and selecting the appropriate alert options (in this case, *all* of the options).

    Perhaps the B-Town Blog could look into this to help determine whether this was an isolated incident or if it’s indicative of a systemic problem.

  4. Julie says:

    Production values! Of course that is why the alert rang hollow/ Goodness knows, we need to raise the bar in many areas…. don’t get me started…

    Imagine, a day without power or snowplows, but somewhere in cyberspace, your voicemail is getting a message to do something…. don’t tell me… don’t tell me…there’s no birds involved, right? I will get the message when the power goes back on.

  5. I did receive the robo-call (which I had NOT signed up for), and appreciated it. However, I have to agree with the criticism of the lame-sounding voice ‘talent.’ I can name you a Burien resident who had a network (aka Hollywood) radio career starting when she was a child in 1945. She also did screams for movie stars who couldn’t. Maybe she’d do the phone message for free – sounds like a good cause!

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