While the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has announced that the exact date of its latest earthquake drill will not be publicized in advance, it is no surprise that Smart Communications has again provided support to the agency’s annual disaster preparedness and response activity.
Just like in previous years, the PLDT wireless unit deployed emergency communications support for the MMDA Shake Drill, which simulated the “Big One,” or a magnitude 7.2 earthquake situation in the event of a movement from the West Valley Fault.
“We are doing this to prepare everyone to minimize damage that earthquake may cause. When the Big One happens, we must be prepared,” MMDA General Manager Jose Arturo “Jojo” Garcia Jr. said in a statement released by the agency.
“Our participation in the drill is part of our commitment to use technology to enhance disaster preparedness and response,” said PLDT and Smart public affairs head Ramon R. Isberto. “Our various communication tools, including the cellular and data services themselves, are part of our #SafePH advocacy, which aims to help build more resilient communities and reduce disaster risk,” he said.
Smart positioned multi-equipment on wheels (MEOW) portable cell sites, satellite communications services, and libreng tawag (free calls) stations; and provided Wi-Fi support for incident commanders at the MMDA quadrants. The MMDA has divided Metro Manila into quadrants to better manage response and rescue operations when the Big One strikes.
The quadrants, with their respective evacuation areas, are as follows: the northern quadrant (Quezon City, Caloocan, Valenzuela, San Juan), Veterans Memorial Medical Center Golf Course and Quezon Memorial Circle; eastern quadrant, (Marikina and Pasig), LRT 2 Santolan depot; western quadrant (Navotas, Malabon, Manila), Intramuros Golf Course; and southern quadrant (Pasay, Makati, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Pateros, and Taguig), Villamor Golf Course.
The #MMShakeDrill began with Smart issuing alerts using the Emergency Cell Broadcast System. Accompanied by a loud siren sound, ECBS sends urgent messages, such as evacuation notices and earthquake and tsunami warnings, to activated mobile devices within the affected area.
Cell broadcast is effective in disseminating quick hazard alerts because it operates on a radio channel separate from that used by voice calls and text messages or SMS (short messaging service), which may get congested in times of calamities.
In 2016, Smart invested over P500 million on ECBS to fully comply with Republic Act No. 10639, or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act. The act mandates telecommunications service providers to send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and man-made disasters and calamities.
At the start of the program, the participants converged at an open area and were urged to assume the “duck, cover, and hold” position. Residents, workers, students, and government personnel joined the activities, which included evacuation drills, while responders were on standby for mock rescue operations.
The annual #MMShakeDrill drill aims to strengthen the capacity of individuals, households, and local authorities to prepare for and respond to the Big One. According to the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), this scenario may leave more than 30,000 dead and over 100,000 injured.
In times of calamities, Smart provides communications support such as free SMS, calls, charging, connectivity, and satellite solutions to residents and responders. These services have been deployed, for instance, during the onslaught of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013, the series of earthquakes in Batangas last year, and Mayon Volcano eruption early this year, among other emergency situations.
These initiatives are part of Smart’s #SafePH advocacy, which also includes programs such as TNT Tropang Ready, which tours schools nationwide to educate the youth on preparedness and empower them to mobilize their communities in times of calamities; and the Batingaw disaster management app, which allows users to report incidents and features tools such as a flashlight, a siren, a radio, and a directory of emergency contact numbers.
Smart is also providing high-speed connectivity to the Nokia Saving Lives drone system to help boost the disaster response efforts of the Philippine Red Cross. The drone project has been selected as a grantee of the Disaster Response Innovation Fund by GSMA, the organization representing mobile operators globally.
Earlier this month, Smart joined other telecommunications providers and humanitarian organizations from all over Asia at the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter Regional Workshop for Asia-Pacific held in Angeles City, Pampanga. Smart is one of the three founding signatories of the GSMA HCC, which aims to provide increased access to communication and information for those affected by calamities, helping reduce loss of lives and contribute to humanitarian response.