China weather agencies, telcos partner on warning system

The China Meteorological Administration signs agreements with China Unicom and China Telecom to disseminate early warnings of weather conditions through text messages.

China's meteorological authorities will be working with local telcos to send early warning messages before natural disasters hit to improve the notification process.

According to China Daily's report on Sunday, the China Meteorological Administration signed agreements with China Unicom and China Telecom to collaborate on improving the dissemination of early warnings and enable more people to receive information of the natural disasters heading their way.

The weather authorities in 17 provinces including Hebei, Shanxi, Jilin and Jiangsu, will use a four-tier, color-coded weather warning system with red being the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue. When an orange or red warning is issued, the agencies will send text messages to residents in these regions, the report noted.

Text messages, for instance, were sent last Saturday as Beijing issued a warning of heavy rain to residents, said Ding Deping, a senior official at the Beijing Meteorological Bureau. But while she said most residents would have received the warning, China Daily reported many of them did not receive the text messages.

Chen Zhenlin, chief of department for emergency response, disaster mitigation, and public services at the China Meteorological Administration, added that microblogs will also be used to inform citizens of weather changes. The Guangdong Meteorological Bureau's microblog, for one, has more than 600,000 followers, making it an effective information channel.

The move comes after a new round of heavy rains washed over a large part of China over the weekend, which followed the storm that had hit Beijing on Jul. 21 killing 79 people.

Other countries, too, are using text messages to as part of their early warning systems. Israel had in August commenced a week-long test of an alert system that sends a text message to mobile phones located in areas likely to bit hit by missile strikes.