Netizens receive advance alert on earthquake thru gadgets; here's why

Published July 24, 2021, 6:02 AM

by Martin Sadongdong

Social media was abuzz early Saturday morning, July 24, after Filipinos were woken up by a magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit Calatagan, Batangas which was felt in nearby areas including parts of Metro Manila.

Some netizens praised the advance alert issued through their mobile phones by Google, moments before the quake occured at 4:49 a.m.

A 5.1-magnitude aftershock followed at 4:57 a.m., according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

Twitter user @_bigbryte said: “Props to whoever invented this early warning system. Got notified seconds ahead bago lumindol (before the earthquake struck).”

(Screenshot of advance earthquake alert courtesy of Twitter user @_bigbryte)

Meanwhile, Twitter user @sunlightmirae said: “But kudos to Android/Google’s notif about the earthquake. It was accurate as hell! After receiving that notif, seconds after lumindol nga (an earthquake really happened). Keep safe everyone!”

Others were wondering if the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) issued similar warnings since they did not receive any alert.

Twitter user @guidoerikamae asked: “Bakit walang alert ‘yung samin? Kahit cp namin nila mama? Tatlo kaming may cp na dating kapag may ganto na lindol or matinding ulan nag-aalert but now? No NDRRMC alert happened (Why didn’t we receive any alert? Even the mobile phone of our mom. We three have all cellphones that used to receive alert in case of an earthquake or strong rain but now? No NDRRMC alert happened.)”

According to Google, it has used Android devices such as mobile phones “to provide people with timely, helpful earthquake information when they search, as well as a few seconds warning to get themselves and their loved ones to safety if needed.”

Google Philippines launched “Android Earthquake Alerts System” last month which alerts people during an earthquake in two ways: via the search engine and directly on the Android mobile device.

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits Calatagan, Batangas on July 24, 2021. (Courtesy of Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology)

Meanwhile, the NDRRMC has been sending alerts during disasters and calamities as mandated under Republic Act No. 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act.

Prior to this, the NDRRMC explained that the delay in the issuance of alert, such as during heavy rainfall or eaethquake, was because of a “network congestion.”

“It appears that a network congestion happens as a consequence of the sending of messages to so many subscribers all at the same time, a limitation in technology that our telco partners are still trying to resolve,” said Office of Civil Defense spokesperson Mark Timbal.

Relatedly, Timbal said local officials were already conducting initial assessment to determine the damages brought by the earthquake.

He noted that there was no immediate threat of a tsunami following the quake although aftershocks are expected.

“[There is an] ongoing assessment. So far, no tsunami threat after the earthquake,” he said.

“[We are] expecting no damages. [We are] expecting aftershocks,” he added.

Taal evacuees

Timbal said local officials were also assessing whether the evacuees who fled their homes due to the rumbling of Taal Volcano in Batangas will be allowed to go back since the alert of the volcano was downgraded by Phivolcs to Level 2 from 3.

“The regional DRRMC Calabarzon and affected local government units are examining the local situation to see if the evacuees can be allowed to go home,” he said.

More than 1,600 families of 5,800 individuals were still staying in evacuation centers in Batangas due to Taal’s volcanic activity.