Israeli tech for mass-notification alerts saves lives

When a natural or manmade disaster strikes, countries in Latin America, Europe and Israel use eVigilo’s multichannel system to warn citizens.

NDRRMC, Smart roll out emergency cell broadcast system nationwide

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and telecommunication company Smart Communications launched Tuesday a cell broadcast system (CBS) to enable the quick transmission of warnings to the public in times of calamities.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the development of the emergency cell broadcast system (ECBS) boosts government confidence in its ability to provide timely, hazard-specific, and location-specific warnings to people.

Hazard-specific, location-specific warnings

Yung alert hindi pare-pareho, iba yung alert sa tabing-dagat, iba sa tabing ilog, iba rin sa bundok. Pwede i-localize yung alert depende sa tatamaan ng bagyo o anuman. Ang takot natin yung lindol wala namang pasabi yan e. Ang challenge is palaging during and after na ‘yan,” he said during the press conference.

“Itong ating sistema ngayon marami pa tayong aayusin, the NDRRMC and OCD (Office of Civil Defense) meron naman silang regional stations. They are going to fine tune this with Smart,” he added.

The cell broadcast service can send emergency alerts quickly to a large number of mobile devices within a specified target area, making it an effective public warning system. It also allows telecommunications service providers to send out alert messages with minimal use of network resources.

Compliance with Free Mobile Disasters Alerts Act

Smart invested P500 million in ECBS, part of its 2016 capex outlay for network modernization in support of the NDRRMC efforts to reduce vulnerability during calamities.

This is the telecom company’s compliance with Republic Act No. 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act, which mandates all telcos to implement free mobile alerts to the public in the event of calamities.

Ramon R. Isberto, head of public affairs at PLDT and Smart, said ECBS abbreviates the process. He said the system is critical in some situations like a tsunami where time can be limited and the ability to send out the message in such a short period of time can be very, very critical.

“You just need an access to computer, to a program, compose the message, define the area where the message will be sent, and then send the message. The system will send the message out,” he said during his presentation.

Advantage of CBS over traditional SMS

He said unlike short messaging system (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.

He also pointed out that, in SMS, the sender has to collect the numbers in a given area—a painstaking and time-consuming process.

It can take several hours. That is the process the ECBS bypasses entirely. This is not based on celphone number, the system is based on location. All the cell sites in that location that was defined will send out  the message to all mobile phones in the area. That is the very big and fundamental advantage of cellular broadcast system,” he said.

He said another difference between traditional short message service (SMS) and CBS is the message display: SMS messages are received in a phones message inbox, whereas cell broadcast alerts flash on the screen even without user interaction. The latter is also accompanied by a loud warning sound.

Isberto said most mobile phonescan receive CBS alerts only when the cell broadcast feature is turned on, however.

“It is thus important to make sure that one’s device is updated to the latest operating system, and that its CBS feature is activated. Please turn on the cell broadcast feature of your cellphone,” he said.

NDRRMC in charge of ECBS messages and broadcasts

NDRRMC  executive director Ricardo Jalad said that, with the ECBS, it is the NDRRMC that will craft the message with inputs from different government agencies and send it unlike in SMS where they need to send the message to the telcos which in turn will send it to recipients.

“With this technology wala na yung telcos, kami na ang magka-craft, kami na ang magpapadala ng message,” he said.

He said their biggest challenge is the limit in the characters that they can send.

“Ang challenge doon ‘yung pagcraft ng message dahil limited ang characters,” he said.

He said they will send messages only during emergency situations.

“Ayaw naming abusuhin ang paggamit nito. Gusto namin marealize ng tao na pag pinadalhan sila e urgent talaga kaya dapat silang sumunod,” he said.

NDRRMC and Smart are set to conduct test runs of the ECBS in Northern, Central, and Southern Luzon in the next few weeks, following successful runs in Mindanao on Jan. 24, Visayas on Jan. 25, and Metro Manila on Jan. 26. — TJD, GMA News



Cell broadcast alerting on track for late 2017

Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says the implementation of a new nationwide channel for sending alerts about emergencies to mobile phones is on track to be up and running by the end of the year.

Cell broadcast alerting is a new way of sending information to mobile phones in a set area without people needing to download an app or subscribe to a service.

“The alerts will appear similar to text messages. They are received automatically and for free by all cell broadcast enabled mobile phones in the area,” Mr Brownlee says.

“Discussions with New Zealand’s major telecommunications companies are progressing well and we expect to have contracts signed in the coming weeks.

“Once the cell broadcast alerting system is up and running, an alert will be sent out to mobile phones through the cell towers in the affected areas in the event of an emergency.

“As no technology is 100 per cent failsafe or equally useful in all conditions and emergencies, multiple channels will continue to be used to send alerts when emergencies happen.

“These channels include radio, television, websites, various social media, smartphone apps, sirens and others.

“A range of alerting methods were assessed before cell broadcast was chosen but this system gives the best combination of reach and reliability in New Zealand’s conditions.

“It will get information about an emergency to at-risk communities faster and more reliably than ever before. Plus, cell broadcast technology is not vulnerable to network overloading, so even when the networks get busy after a disaster, alerts can still be sent quickly.

“The system is well established elsewhere in the world in counties such as the US, Japan, Israel, Chile, the Netherlands and Taiwan.

“Countries including Canada, Peru, the UAE and the Philippines are in the process of implementing cell broadcast alerting.

“The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management and the three mobile network operators – 2degrees, Vodafone and Spark – are working together to enable cell broadcast technology in New Zealand for the first time.

“The Ministry is working alongside the Fire Service, Police, Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industries to develop a system that will work for the whole of government.

“Cell broadcast alerts don’t replace the need for people to pay attention to natural warnings, which is particularly important in the case of earthquakes and potential tsunamis,” Mr Brownlee says.


How to enable your smartphone’s emergency alerts via cell broadcast

Smart deploys cell broadcast technology, complies with RA 10639

Smart Communications has successfully tested its cell broadcast technology recently in key areas of the Philippines, including the National Capital Region (NCR). This is in compliance with Republic Act 10639 or “The Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act,” which mandates telecoms services providers to send free mobile alerts during times of calamities.

Smart CBC Test Broadcast

“Unlike SMS or text services, cell broadcast technology has its own dedicated channel, ensuring sustained broadcast alerts even when the network receives heavy traffic from all the calls and messages made during disasters. This makes it a viable platform solution for a mobile-based alert system,” said Ramon R. Isberto, Head of Public Affairs at PLDT and Smart. “We encourage everyone to configure their mobile devices so that they can receive emergency alerts in the future.”

The company invested about P500 million in this messaging platform to enable the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and Phivolcs to quickly send alert messages to mobile phone users in specific areas facing natural calamities or other emergencies.

Shown in photo during a presentation of Smart’s new cell broadcast service, from left, are Deputy Commissioner Edgardo V. Cabarios, Deputy Commissioner Delilah F. Deles, Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba, Ramon R. Isberto, head of Smart Public Affairs; Atty. Joel Peneyra of PLDT Regulatory Group, and NTC Regulation Chief Engr. Imelda R. Walcien.


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Smart invests in nationwide disaster and emergency alert system – Cell Broadcast

High-risk communities can now receive quick and timely alerts during calamities [01 SEPT 2016] PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications has invested P400 million in cell broadcast service (CBS) technology that will strengthen the nationwide alert system of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) during emergencies and calamities.

CBS technology enables the delivery of messages on a broadcast so that one message can be sent to a large number of devices quickly and broadcast to all cell-broadcast enabled handsets within a designated target area. It enables location-specific emergency alerts without the need to register or track devices.  It also has the capability to deliver messages and alerts from NDRRMC or PHIVOLCS to visitors coming from abroad who’s in the perimeter of the selected broadcast area where an emergency is imminent.

“This is a major investment for Smart as we support the government in its call to further improve emergency communications systems amid the rising threat of disasters.  In times of emergencies and disasters, delivering quick and timely alerts to high-risk communities can help save lives. This technology will allow us to rapidly send out alert messages without using up network resources,” said Ramon R. Isberto, Head of Public Affairs at PLDT and Smart.

“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 made during disasters which makes it a viable platform solution for a mobile-based alert system,” Isberto concluded.

Smart’s CBS technology will be tested initially in September in the Metro Manila area and will be fully operational nationwide by December this year. The first area to benefit from this is the densely populated Metro Manila followed by major identified areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Republic Act 10639 or the “The Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act” mandates all telecommunication services providers to send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and man-made disasters and calamities. Working with the government and other partners, Smart has helped build capacities of high-risk communities to prepare for, manage the impact, and bounce back from disasters using technologies appropriate to the community.  It has embraced disaster preparedness not only within its ranks but also in engaging various partners as part of its #SafePH campaign.


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