Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Ismael Sueno, together with other government agencies, private organizations, telecommunications companies and media partners, recently led the testing of 911 as the new emergency hotline in the country.
Sueno called 911 twice using a landline and a cellular phone in the presence of officials from concerned agencies to see how the operation will flow from the caller, to coordination, and up to the dispatch of the emergency assistance needed as soon as the new emergency number becomes public in August.
The use of 911 as the new Nationwide Emergency Hotline Number was made possible through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed between the DILG and telecommunications companies which allowed the change of 117 to 911 as the designated national disaster number.
The transition from 117 to 911 came following the instruction of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to make 911 accessible to all Filipinos at any telephone beginning August 1.
Sueno also said, that while Duterte has instructed them to make 911 free of charge, all calls to 911 and 117 will still be shouldered by the callers from August and until a new memorandum of agreement has been signed by the agencies concerned and a new executive order has been issued.
Retired General Eliseo Rio Jr. of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and currently consultant to 117, said after August 1, the current 15 seats of 117 will increase to 30 and the existing 43 call center agents will improve to 90.
Rio, in his report to Sueno, also admitted there will be minor technical glitches during the early operation but they hope to polish it in the course of the nationwide operation, similar to their experience in Davao City.
Mon Isberto of PLDT-Smart Communications, also present during the testing, has recommended that the more local units connected to 911 national center, the better for call operators because their dispatch load will be reduced, and the faster the respondents can respond to the emergencies.
Meanwhile, DILG undersecretary Jesus Hinlo said more test calls will be made until 911 is officially launched.
The test calls, as well as the simulation exercises that will be made between July 21 to July 31, seek to close possible gaps that will be encountered once 911 goes public. — PIA