Many of us have our own stories how SMS helped in an emergency. Here is mine.
I was at the National Book Exhibition at BMICH on September 12, 2007 evening when a tsunami alert was broadcast. It created instant chaos. I did not have access to a TV or a radio. By then the mobile voice channels were congested.
So it was SMS that I used to:
(a) Find accurate updates about the alert
(b) Make sure my family members are safe and
(c) Inform my family that I am safe
All above was critical for me to decide on my next steps. I did that within 10 minutes, learnt it was low risk, decided to shop for some more time (anyway they closed early on that day) and went home avoiding rush hour traffic.
I dare not to think what I would have done if SMS services were cut off at that very moment. I would be helpless having a communication device in my hand that does not connect me to anybody.
But that is exactly what the Sri Lanka Telecom Regulator plans to do, as I learn from this Sunday Times news item. It quotes DG of Telecom Regulatory Commission saying, “This is simply due to the understanding between the phone service providers. There were many text messages which were going around creating unnecessary public fear. The TRC works closely with these operators and they are ready to support and take preventive measures in situations like this”
Are rumours the only information passed by SMSs? Is SMS the only channel that spread rumours? Do we have to cut the neck of the goat to take its head out of the pot?