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11 May 2018

Thunderstorm, cyclone alerts to your phone .... Technology in testing stage

A dust storm building up over Bikaner on Monday. (PTI) 
G.S. Mudur, TT, May 11, 2018, New Delhi: India is developing a technology platform to relay emergency warnings about impending thunderstorms, dust storms, cyclones and other extreme weather events directly to the mobile phones of all the people in the geographical area under threat.

Initially, the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), proposed by the National Disaster Management Authority, will seek to relay forecasts generated by the India Meteorological Department, senior officials said.

It may later expand to relaying flood forecasts from the Central Water Commission and state-of-the-sea forecasts from the Indian National Centre for Ocean and Information Services, Hyderabad.

A senior official said the technology could be used to relay the India Meteorological Department's "nowcast warnings", which provide fairly accurate information about the locations and features of severe weather events.

"The Common Alerting Protocol is a part of the World Meteorological Organisation's philosophy of having an international standard for sending emergency alerts to the public," said Kanduri Jayaram Ramesh, director-general of the India Meteorological Department.

The World Meteorological Organisation says CAP has been designed for "all hazards" related to weather events, earthquakes, tsunamis and public health, and for "all media" including cellphones, radio, television, and Internet-based digital communication networks.

Although the India Meteorological Department already disseminates its nowcast warnings through text messages to designated officials in over 300 towns in the country, the alerts at times fail to reach the public in time.

Dust storms and squalls killed about 100 people in towns across Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh earlier this month although, senior officials say, nowcast warnings had been sent to areas where the storms had been predicted.

"The CAP is a platform that will allow us to get alerts directly to people - through mobile phones and other media," Vipin Tyagi, executive director of the Centre for Development of Telematics, a unit of the department of telecommunications, told The Telegraph.

The goal is to "intelligently relay" alerts to the public in specific geographical areas where severe weather events are expected, he said.

Senior weather scientists recalled the weather agency's similar past initiative, started in the late 1980s, to directly relay cyclone alerts to the public through satellite-linked disaster warning systems that triggered physical sirens along the country's coastline.

Senior officials said the CAP technology was under development and was being tested in collaboration with the BSNL, a major mobile telephone service provider.

During the tests, sample messages would be distributed en masse to subscribers' phones in specific geographic areas.

"We've chosen BSNL during the testing phase as its services cover nearly 80 per cent of the country's land area," an official said.

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