MANILA—Smart Communications and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) will conduct a series of test runs of the emergency cell broadcast system in Luzon to further improve the country’s emergency alert system for natural disasters and other emergencies.
The scheduled test broadcasts in Northern, Central and Southern Luzon will be conducted within the next few weeks following successful runs in Mindanao on Jan. 24, the Visayas on Jan. 25 and Metro Manila on Jan. 26.
A pilot test of ECBS will be held on March 17 in Baguio City to coincide with the TNT Tropang Ready Disaster Preparedness Caravan organized by Smart at the University of Baguio.
These initiatives are part of Smart’s Safe PH campaign which seeks to promote a resilient and efficient disaster response in the country.
Cell broadcast service (CBS) technology enables telecommunications companies to send official disaster warning messages from government agencies such as the NDRRMC and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) quickly to a large number of mobile devices within an area.
“Unlike SMS or text services, CBS has its own dedicated broadcast channel, ensuring sustained broadcast alerts even when the network receives heavy traffic from all the calls and messages that are usually made during disasters,” Ramon R. Isberto, head of public affairs at PLDT and Smart, said in a statement.
For his part, NDRRMC Executive Director and Office of Civil Administrator Ricardo B. Jalad welcomed the activation of the technology as a means to assist the agency to provide timely, hazard specific and location sensitive warnings to people.
“The NDRRMC is strengthening stakeholder partnerships toward the continuous improvement of our civil defense and DRRM program. We have seen how private sector partners have added more value to our system using their expertise and specialization,” he stated.
Smart appealed for understanding to the public as SMS messages received from the CBS is often accompanied by a loud warning sound, which can be alarming and may cause disruption in people’s daily lives.
“Please bear with us. We realize that these tests will probably surprise some of our subscribers, especially those with handsets that have an alarming sound. But it is necessary for us to conduct these tests in order to be sure that the system works properly. This alert system will be a very valuable tool for the government in future emergencies,” according to Isberto.
Smart’s investment of PHP500 million in emergency cell broadcast system which forms part of its 2016 capital expenditure outlay for network modernization, supports the NDRRMC’s efforts to reduce vulnerability during calamities and is compliant with Republic Act No. 1639 or the Free Mobile Disasters Alerts Act which mandates telcos to implement free mobile alerts to the public in the event of calamities.
Smart has helped high-risk communities prepare for and quickly recover from disasters in coordination with the government and other partners. Through these initiatives, it aims to help in nation building by addressing concerns on disaster preparedness, education, health, and environment.