SMS for emergency

Thousands of mobile phone subscribers sent text messages asking for help at the height of flashfloods that submerged their homes on September 26, 2009, when telephone and power lines were cut off in many parts of Luzon.  Although help came a day or two days later, and for many, did not come at all, flashflood victims were able to send SOS through SMS to radio and television stations and the hotlines of government agencies during the time they needed help the most.

"Despite damages on our equipment, we were getting anecdotal evidence that we had signals in calamity areas," said Mr. Ramon Isberto, spokesman of Smart Communications and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. or PLDT.

"Even in areas that were flooded, we were able to provide coverage. That's why people were able to send text," said Isberto. "I personally handled three cases and attended to their problems through my cell phone."

Radio station DZMM, which also broadcasts its programs on television, was swamped by "thousands" of text messages from people asking for help from their roofs.  Isberto said the density and design of the Smart network enabled the telecom firm to provide a means of communication to people when it is needed the most.

The only thing that prevented people from keeping their mobile phones active was power interruption.  "That is why it is important to conserve the power of cellphone batteries during times like this," Isberto said.

Globe Telecom also took initiative to help the typhoon victims.  "Apart from the service restorations, Globe is also involved in the larger relief operations via our donate a load services with Red Cross and set up of Libreng Tawag offers with OWWA apart from making cash donations of P1 million each to Sagip Kapamilya and Kapuso Foundation.  Our business centers welcome relief goods (not cash)."

Globe said its stores will accept relief goods (except cash) during mall hours in Metro Manila.

Although most text messages were helpful in the rescue operation, some text messages were meant to cause panic.  A text message re

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