PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI, Jan 17 - The Thomson Reuters Foundation has today launched a first-of-its kind, free disaster-information service for the people of Haiti. The service allows survivors of Haiti's earthquake to receive critical information by text message directly to their phones, free of charge.
To register, survivors subscribing to the Digicell network, the largest in the Caribbean, simply text their location to the SMS shortcode 4636. By return, up-to-date, reliable, actionable information will be sent to them wherever they are in Haiti, helping them to reach shelter, aid and loved ones. The service will cost them nothing.
The service also acts as a news and information gathering mechanism, whereby survivors can report information directly into the EIS team of specialist journalists. The EIS team will collate this information and it will be made available to agencies, emergency teams and local media.
People outside of Haiti and the quake zone can register their loved ones' cell phone numbers on their behalf.
TO REGISTER FOR THE SERVICE
- If inside Haiti: text your location to 4636 directly from your own phone
- If inside Haiti and registering someone else's phone number: send a text with REGISTER or REGISTRE and the loved ones' number and location, to 4636
- If overseas: text REGISTER or REGISTRE and the loved ones' local Haiti number, and location to +4673 749 4535
- Note: The SMS shortcode is dependent on local telecom infrastructure; if the infrastructure fails, the local SMS service will not work
The EIS also aims to get critical information to survivors via local media, especially radio, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation already has a team of expert humanitarian journalists in Haiti working around the clock to collect and disseminate information.
Working with technology partner InSTEDD and aid agencies including the Red Cross, the Thomson Reuters Foundation aims to help Haitians with practical information to help them take control of their own recovery.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO, Monique Villa, said this morning, "In times of major natural catastrophes, information itself is aid, as crucial as shelter or blankets. All forms of communication in Haiti have been impaired and the EIS team will help fill the communication void providing reliable, actionable information to the disaster affected population.
"We only launched our new service in December on the fifth anniversary of the Asian Tsunami and whilst you never want or anticipate significant natural disasters, I am pleased that our service is now up and running so that we can come to the aid of the people of Haiti."
For more Haiti coverage from the Foundation's AlertNet service, click www.alertnet.org/.