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Odisha Telecom Department’s Cell Broadcast Alert System Creates Panic Among People in State

The emergency alert text messages sent by the Odisha Telecom Department on Wednesday triggered panic among the mobile users in the state who confused it with messages sent by cyber fraudsters.

The department later called a press meet and issued a statement to dispel the fear among citizens.

“The Department of Telecommunications, Odisha LSA in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority, is pleased to declare the successful completion of the ‘Cell Broadcast Alert System’ testing in the State of Odisha on 25th October, 2023,” said a press note issued by the department on Wednesday.

The Cell Broadcast Alert System is a state-of-the-art technology that allows critical and time-sensitive messages for disaster management to be sent to all mobile devices within a designated geographical area.

“We want to inform the people through the media that we have conducted the test for the benefit of you and your lives. This is not any cyber fraud. It is being sent to alert you about potential natural disasters going to occur within the next half or one hour.

“We are sending the messages to check the loss of human lives and other damages by informing you about forthcoming cyclone, earthquake, flood or lightening occurs,” said Pandey Vijaya Bhusan Prasad, DDG (T), Odisha LSA.

He said the Telecom Department and Centre For Development Of Telematics (CDoT) has created the ‘Cell Broadcast Alert System’ which has been tested in the entire state of Odisha with the help of various service providers-, BSNL, VodaIdea, Jio and Airtel.

The message will be broadcast even if the phone is switched off or traffic related problems in the network.

The testing was conducted in the presence of representatives from State Disaster Management Authority, telecom service providers and other representatives from industry.

The message reached the people with a warning within 10 to 20 seconds after the broadcast.

He said that many precious lives can be saved if people can receive alert messages advising them to move to safer places before forthcoming natural disasters like lightning, heavy rain or flood in their locality.

The test was done in entire state and our success rate is more than 99.99 percent. Some old phone handsets and phones with special features did not receive the message. The department has noted the problem and is trying to address it.

We will check with the manufacturers and ensure the alert system is enabled.

“These tests were carried out to gauge the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency alert broadcasting capability of the system, involving various mobile operators,” the press note adds.

This system is designed to reach both residents and visitors, ensuring that vital emergency information reaches as many people as possible in a timely manner.

It is widely utilised by government agencies and emergency services to inform the public about potential threats, such as severe weather warnings (e.g., tsunami, flash flood and earthquake), public safety messages, evacuation notices, and other critical information.

“During the testing period, people may have received simulated emergency alerts on their mobile devices. We wish to emphasise that these alerts were part of the planned testing process and did not indicate an actual emergency. Each test alert clearly indicated that it was a ‘Test Message’ to avoid any confusion among the recipients,” said the department.

The Department of Telecommunications also thanked the C-DoT, the state disaster management authority, participating telecom service providers and cell broadcast system providers for their cooperation and support in making this testing event a success.

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