State communications authority to roll out text message warning service

The text message service would work with all ages and models of phones and give updates about national crises, including ones like the storm which hit southern and western Estonia on Sunday. Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Following Sunday's storm which left tens of thousands of households across Estonia, predominantly in the south of the country, without power, for several days in some cases, and claimed at least one life, a system of mobile phone text warnings is being rolled out, whose scope would go beyond weather updates.

The system is under the auspices of the State Infocommunication Foundation (Riigi Infokommunikatsiooni Sihtasutus, or RIKS), with the body choosing cellular SMS as the optimum medium, including taking into account the different ages of mobile phones in the possession of the populace, according to RIKS department manager Margus Rohtla.

The development has added impetus from the EU, whose Electronic Communications Laws require such a warning system be ready no later than 2022 in any case. Rohtla said it is hoped the text messaging warning system will be available in Estonia by then, if not earlier.

The state weather office will also have a role to play, as highlighted by how off-guard the country was caught by Sunday's storms, even though several storms of a similar magnitude have been experienced in recent years.

Two low pressure areas crossing Estonia were behind the turbulent weather, with windspeeds recorded way over 20 meters per second (over Force 10 on the Beaufort Scale), but even relatively small variations (in the tens of kilometers) between the forecast and actual paths of these can bring with them problems which a text service would help to alleviate, it is reported.

The service would also be available to Estonian citizens outside the country and would bring updates about emergency situations within the country.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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