when all the phones ring at once

It is 12:00 noon and the Tenerife municipality of Garachico is preparing to be the scene of a drill: the actors, 10,000 people who are circulating in the town at that time, and the plot of the play, the ES-Alert system.

At 12:03, Techy, 43, explains to his mother Carmen, 80, what is going to happen: “They are going to test a service that will notify us when there are emergencies. Now you are going to see how a message comes to me that is going to have a sound, and until I accept it, it will not stop”.

This project, as defined by the user, has been developed by the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Emergencies and the Ministry of Public Administrations of the Government of the Canary Islands, and will allow mobile phones to be notified by text message in the event of catastrophes or emergencies, as well as fires, floods, adverse weather events or chemical accidents without the need to install an application.

When 12:07 arrives, it finally happens: several cell phones in the urban center of Garachico begin to ring, catching many by surprise and others, not so much.

María del Mar and Begoña, 50, are two of the people whom “the beep, as some passers-by have already baptized it, has caught off guard: “We had read it, but we didn’t remember. Suddenly we started to hear sounds and we looked everywhere, surprised because so many mobiles were ringing“, comments the first.

“I told her he is yours!then I thought Oh no, it’s mine! But neither one nor the other, it was everyone’s”, says Begoña.

A different case is that of his companion, Gabino, 55, who was not aware of the drill and when he received it, he was scared.

“Normally I keep my phone on silent mode, so I didn’t understand what was ringing so often… And when I saw that the same thing was happening to several people, I got even more scared, until I understood what it was,” she confesses.

Despite this initial surprise, the three agree on the need to launch this type of initiative, “which would have been great for us, for example, when the fire in Los Realejos passed,” recalls Gabino, referring to the emergency registered in the north of the island last July.

But in this work, there have also been some actors who have been relegated to the position of extras and have not received any kind of message.

“I was aware of what was going to happen, but neither my boyfriend nor I have received anything,” explains Laura, 37, adding that the initiative “is great, as long as in the future it sounds like it to all of us ”.

This fact is explained, according to the local police officer Alejandro Álvarez, because the communication has been sent through the telephone signal “and it depends on the operator that each person uses, whether it has arrived or not. The majority that have received it work with Movistar”.

Along the same lines, Techy raises another problem, presenting the case of his mother as an example: “She has not received it because she has an old telephone with no internet connection. I hope that in the future they can fix this, because there are many older people who live alone who should not be left without knowing.

Despite this, he affirms that the system “is very good, especially in places like this, which are very exposed to the sea… It is important that they keep us alert.”

ES-Alert has been tested, during this Thursday, in two Canarian municipalities, the other being Valleseco, in Gran Canaria.

Both locations have been selected for their unique characteristics that allow testing the behavior of the warning system, as they are environments exposed to certain risks, as explained by those responsible for the system.

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