PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc., are helping mobile operators across the globe improve Early Warning Systems (EWS), especially in times of disaster. Armed with lessons learned from Typhoon Rai, locally called Odette, in the tail end of 2021, PLDT and Smart shared their experience during the roundtable discussion with the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), the global alliance of mobile operators and other industry stakeholders.
“What we’ve learned and relearned, most especially from Typhoon Rai, is that communication is as important as food, water and shelter, most especially at Ground Zero where our frontliners help facilitate and coordinate emergency and support services for affected communities,” said Cathy Yap-Yang, FVP and Group Head of PLDT and Smart Corporate Communications.
PLDT and Smart underscored the importance of their coordination with local government units, national and local disaster risk reduction management agencies ahead of the Typhoon Rai’s landfall. This close working relationship has enabled PLDT and Smart to send warnings and evacuation notices via the Emergency Cell Broadcast System (ECBS) and local advisories through the Infocast platform, a web-based SMS broadcast solution powered by Smart.
PLDT and Smart have been working consistently with the government to improve the ECBS. “Alerts are to be used sparingly and ought to be geo-targeted, time-bound and contain a specific call to action. If they happen too frequently, people tend to get desensitized and end up ignoring the messages, which defeats the purpose of an emergency alert,” explained Yap-Yang.
By collaborating with local responders ahead of time, PLDT and Smart were able to preposition personnel and critical network equipment including satellite phones and power generators to areas that were on the typhoon’s path. PLDT and Smart also coordinated with local suppliers for the preparation of relief aid.
“Early preparation is key. It also helps to have redundancies in case Plan A falls through. And most importantly, we must keep a robust, collaborative relationship with government and private sector stakeholders at all times,” added Yap-Yang.
PLDT and Smart promote preparedness and immediate response through network resilience, continuous availability of communication services, mobile solutions and activities, and relief assistance to help communities mitigate disaster risks. These initiatives underscore the commitment of PLDT and Smart to attaining the UNSDGs, particularly SDG #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.