The ECBS is based on the Cell Broadcast Service (CBS), which delivers notifications to your phone screen instantly, without requiring any user interaction. Depending on your phone’s settings, it may also vibrate or emit a loud, distinctive sound specifically designed for emergency broadcasts.
According to the World Bank report “Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention,” early warning systems are among the top three sectors that can significantly reduce the impacts of disasters. These systems allow people to evacuate or protect their properties and provide crucial data for government agencies to allocate resources effectively.
The CBS technology plays a significant role in early warning, functioning as an efficient Public Warning System (PWS).
The GSM Association (GSMA), a global organization representing mobile network operators, highlights several unique features that make CBS ideal for PWS:
Message Display: CBS messages appear automatically on phones with a distinct warning tone and can even be delivered in multiple languages.
Message Delivery: CBS operates on a one-to-many basis, enabling the rapid dissemination of messages to millions of devices within a designated area.
Message Security: Unlike SMS, which can be sent by any source, CBS messages are only sent by authorized personnel, adding an extra layer of security.
In the Philippines, the ECBS was established in compliance with the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act of 2014. This act mandates telecommunications companies and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to provide free mobile disaster alerts. These alerts are sourced from various state agencies, including the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PhiVolcs).
First launched in 2017, the ECBS was led by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and PLDT/Smart Communications with the aim of increasing public awareness and preparedness, given the frequent occurrence of natural calamities in the country.
While the system initially faced challenges during its deployment, evidence suggests that many of these issues have been resolved, as I have received timely alerts. However, there are still complaints on social media about delayed warnings.
Since emergencies can occur at any time, the ECBS overrides regular volume settings, ensuring that you receive alerts even if your phone is on silent mode.
For those who wish to turn off this feature, it can be disabled in the phone settings under “emergency alerts.” However, considering the potential life-saving benefits of the ECBS, it is highly recommended to keep it enabled.