By Eric Fabian
In 26th July 2011, when a 5.9 magnitude earthquake shook the coastline province of Zambales, a series of fake tsunami alerts supposedly from PHIVOLCS’s Twitter account spread online like wildfire, until the agency’s Seismology Division OIC, Ishmael Narag, stepped in and told the public, “We have no Twitter or Facebook accounts. Just wait for our announcements on our website or on radio.” Any other organization would consider it a shame to not have a presence on social media.
Rumors could have been easily dispelled if there was an official PHIVOLCS Twitter account. When an earthquake struck the eastern part of the country on the 31st of August 2012, people scrambled online to look for the PHIVOLCS Twitter page, as the social networking site is now one of the most important sources of real-time information. Surprise! The institute still did not have a Twitter account.
Their official site crashed due to heavy traffic. Their Facebook profile has copy-paste postings of scientific jargon on earthquake monitoring with barely any public engagement. This disconnect is reinforced by statements coming from PHIVOLCS head Dr. Renato U. Solidum himself. His excuse is that the agency does not have enough staff members to provide social media updates.
“What we do is we give the updates to the concerned agencies, which then post the updates on Twitter,” he said. Which is funny, considering that there are a lot of free technologies online that can easily be set up by someone with a high school education, good reading comprehension and a modest desktop computer with internet connection.
They can easily sync their website to repost on a Facebook or Twitter account, and it only requires at most an hour to set up. Afterwards, the user does not even have to think about updating the social media account as it automatically updates, for as long as the source website is regularly updated.
Heck, one can even ask a teenager to do the setting up. Solidum further defended PHIVOLCS’ lack of social media presence by saying that the agency is more “focused on the real-time flow of information to the concerned agencies, including the Office of Civil Defense, which would issue advisories and warnings to residents of areas an earthquake had struck,” according to an Inquirer interview.