Twitter typhoon alerts inspire new call centres

Philippine typhoon tweets may have reached a million people Copyright: Flickr/IFRC

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[MANILA] The Philippines’ weather bureau has decided to open a dedicated call centre to respond to online queries about the weather.

The move follows the success of a Twitter service that has, among other things, been warning of impending typhoons, such as that which hit the country earlier this week.

The state-run Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), an agency under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), has turned to social medium, Twitter, to give real-time updates on weather.

It also answers many of the queries posted on the online forum, whether mundane or complex.

"You have people from the shipping and civil aviation sectors asking details about the direction and wind speed of the oncoming typhoon, to the ones asking about the weather in the Boracay [a popular tourist spot]," said Graciano Yumul, PAGASA’s officer-in-charge  and DOST undersecretary.

Other government offices have also jumped on the social media bandwagon and set up their own Twitter accounts.

The success of PAGASA’s Twitter service has led the organisation to consider setting up a call centre dedicated to handling inquiries.

"In answer to the critics who question its use, pointing out that the majority of the population is without access to the Internet, I point out that PAGASA utilises all possible communication technology available to help disseminate information quickly," Yumul said.

"As a result, thousands took precautionary measures [before this week’s typhoon] and a few more lives and properties were saved."

Luis Arriola, a publisher of a local business paper, regretted not knowing about the Twitter service. A storm surge in the Manila Bay area destroyed his properties — including several expensive cars, which, he said, he could have moved had he known about the earlier warning from PAGASA.

Link to PAGASA’s Twitter updates