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PAGASA weather updates accessible via SMS

by Smart Communications, Inc. | Oct 21, 2011
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With the emergence of a milestone public service information system that utilizes the potential of SMS, the Filipino’s passion for texting could very well save his life.

[Nov. 10, 2008/ Makati City] - With the emergence of a milestone public service information system that utilizes the potential of SMS, the Filipino’s passion for texting could very well save his life.

Smart Communications, Inc. (SMART) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) recently launched the PAGASA Infoboard service. 

This partnership between the country’s foremost authority in weather and the country’s leading telecommunications company has given birth to an effective, timely and wide-reaching weather information dissemination system that makes use of both SMS and the Web in making vital information for disaster preparedness available to mobile phone users any time, anywhere.

Information that can keep you from harm’s way such as typhoon updates, flood situation, or climate condition can now be received or accessed in the form of a text message. 

“If all SMART subscribers take advantage of the service, you can just imagine what we can do to prevent loss of lives and property,” says Perry V. Bayani, head of SMART’s wireless consumer sales and business development group.  As he aptly puts it, “May PAGASA na po sa cell phone natin.”

The need to widen the scope of SMS for use in information dissemination was first brought up during a Philippine Inter-Island Shipping Association meeting that PAGASA Director Prisco D. Nilo attended after the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars last June.  Immediately after, he contacted SMART.

“We hope to avoid any other similar accidents at sea (as the sinking of MV Princess of the Stars) that cause misery to many of our countrymen,” says Dr. Prisco D. Nilo, director of PAGASA.  “With the Infoboard, people can access practically all of our latest bulletins and advisories.  They can then decide on their own whether to postpone or continue with their trip.  This kind of service is critical.” 

Before the PAGASA Infoboard, both PAGASA and the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) already had existing SMS dissemination.  However, the scope is limited to selected end-users like government agencies and offices.  The public had no direct access.  Other than it is costly, it is also impossible to manually send text messages to everyone. 

SMART came up with a solution via the Infoboard, a web-based group broadcast service that offers various SMS facilities with different functions and capabilities catering to the needs of a certain organization or community.

For PAGASA, the requirement was to send out messages and at the same time allow the public to initiate messaging by being able to download information themselves.

The public is thereby given an option – to be included in the PAGASA Infoboard mailing list so as to receive regular text advisories and updates; or to initiate the downloading of specific information depending on what they need.

To get regular updates, SMART and Talk ‘N Text subscribers have to initially register.  For rain updates, text ULAN REG NAME/ADDRESS/AGE to 717 (ULAN) or 717 (8526).  To subscribe, text ULAN PUSH ON to 717 (ULAN) or 717 (8526). To unsubscribe, text ULAN PUSH OFF to the same assigned numbers.  This service costs only P1 per message received.

For the subscriber-initiated messaging, keywords for downloading information are as follows: for flood updates it’s BAHA INFO ADVISORY; for weather, ULAN INFO ADVISORY or BAGYO INFO ADVISORY; for climate, KLIMA INFO ADVISORY; for astronomy updates, ASTRO INFO ADVISORY; and for general information, GENERAL INFO PAGASA.  After texting the key words, send to 7008526.

Given the information they can now get via their mobile phones, the public need not wait for a radio or TV weather advisory especially during times of emergency.

It is also a welcome development to the shipping and airline industries whose operations are highly dependent on and affected by weather conditions.

According to Leoncio Dakila S. Nakpil II, chairman of the Asean Airline Operators Council, the PAGASA Infoboard is one of the facilities required by the airlines.  “It will give us, our pilots and even our passengers more information needed when it comes to flights.  It is especially helpful to our pilots in considering what routes to take, what to avoid.  If you are up there, you won’t know where to navigate if you get the wrong information.”  

Alvin Aguillon, port captain at Negros Navigation, says the service will help provide timely information even when he is out of the office and can’t access the Internet. “It is crucial for us to know the position of the storm right away so we can immediately plot it. It is very important for our captains and the members of our managing committee to know the actual location of the storm.”

Also appreciative of the effort is Gen. Glenn J. Rabonza, NDCC Executive Officer.  “This collaboration will increase government capacity to provide disaster risk information.  Effective communication of disaster risk information including early warning enables people to reduce their risk and safeguard their lives and livelihood.”  @

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For media inquiries, contact:

Group Corporate Communications, Smart Communications, Inc.
8F Smart Tower 6799 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Philippines

corpcomm@smart.com.ph