Citizens to be warned of floods through SMS -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Citizens to be warned of floods through SMS

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: As floodwaters threaten to inundate more areas downstream, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has directed all licensed Cellular Mobile Operators to send SMS alerts in an early warning initiative.

“Not everyone is sitting in front of the television for news about the onrushing floods. But many have cellular phones and sending short messages to them about the danger they could face in the next 72 hours or 24 hours would certainly help save lives,” said the spokesman for PTA.

Director Pakistan Meteorological Department Azmat Hayat Khan said that another spell of rains were expected by September 20 to 21. But it would not be as heavy and intense as the ones that have wreaked havoc in Punjab.

Experts say the heavy downpour in different locations were rare and have happened after 15 to 18 years. Rain showers in some areas broke past records.

Both the federal and Punjab governments had approached the PTA for the early warning facility in the wake of heavy flooding in several districts of the province so that the threatened populations move to safer locations in time.

PTA gets the latest on the flood situation from the national and provincial disaster management authorities for the mobile operators to pass on the information and warning specific to their clients in the threatened areas.

On Sunday, the mobile companies messaged flood warnings to their clients in the districts of Sialkot, Narowal, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Chiniot, Faisalabad, Jhang, Jhelum, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Bahawalpur, and Khanewal.
“They were alerted to move to higher grounds before the floodwaters arrive and wreak havoc,” said the spokesman for PTA.

PTA first co-opted the mobile phone companies in such public service in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated northern parts of the country in October 2005.

Next they became helpful during the widespread floods in 2010 and 2011 and most recently in guiding the hundreds of thousands of people evacuated or displaced by the military operation against the militants in North Waziristan.

The public services not just warned residents of specific cities and towns of some approaching disaster, but also provided information post-disaster situations, such as where to find relief.

Mobile company Telenor had already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) to facilitate aid agencies and mobile phone users in disaster hit areas.

“It allows citizens of particular localities to receive free messages and updates on heavy downpours if they may cause flash floods,” said a Telenor official elaborating on the company’s location-based, opt-in services.