At around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, thousands of mobile phones across the Vega Baja started to emit an audible warning, accompanied by a message in both Spanish and English warning of an imminent flood. The message was the latest test of the ES Alert system, and was not a real emergency.
This was in fact the second test carried out in the Valencian Community, although in this case, the geographical area tested has been much wider, covering the 27 municipalities of the Vega Baja. The ES-Alert system, which is integrated into the National Alert Network, uses Cell Broadcast technology to deliver messages to the mobile phones of users in a specific area.
Warnings of the impending alert had been sent out for a few days prior to Thursday, although it still caught many people by surprise, especially as some were unaware that they had to acknowledge the message in order to stop the alert on their phone.
The message did portray itself as a test, asking people not to call the emergency services, who were concerned that they may be inundated with calls from concerned residents over the “imminent risk of the Segura River overflowing”.
The Regional Secretary of Security and Emergencies, José María Ángel, attended the test together with the Director General of the Interior, Salvador Almenar; the mayor of Orihuela, Carolina García, and municipal and local police representatives of the region, present in the command post set up in Orihuela in the Ramón Sijé de Orihuela square, next to the old Tourist Office.
The delegates did get to witness some of the startled attendees in the library who did seem to panic a little when the alert was activated.
According to sources from the Generalitat, “it has been a success”, as well as “effective”, because even if the mobile was silent, the alert still rang.
The messages were sent in both Spanish and English due to the large tourist influx that the municipalities of the Vega Baja coast have and taking into account that this region can have a floating population close to 600,000 inhabitants in the months summer.
This second test that is carried out in the Valencian Community “is part of the set of actions provided for in the Vega Renhace plan”, explained Ángel, who stressed that these public alerts with self-protection instructions will allow the Emergency services “to have direct interaction with the public”, and will be “essential to minimise the risk of future threats arising from the climate emergency”.
Of course flooding is a common emergency in the area, despite the current drought conditions, with reservoirs in this area currently only around a third full, a quarter in some cases, and rain would be a welcome relief in that sense, though not for the people who suffer on the ground.
The regional secretary has highlighted that 84% of the municipalities of the Valencian Community with the obligation to have a Municipal Action Plan against the risk of floods have already prepared this framework document. Thus, there are 227 municipalities that, due to different risk factors, must have this plan that includes the organisation and operation of their resources to deal with pre-emergency and emergency situations due to floods.
In the case of the Vega Baja region, he has specified that “all municipalities already have this framework document prepared or in the approval phase and only one is in the preparation phase.”
Outside the emergency situation simulated in this alert, the Valencia Region has a mobile phone application where all kinds of alerts and incidents can be consulted in real-time.
GVA 112 Avisos is available from the app stores, but is only available in Spanish, or the Valencian language. It is however quite simple to work your way around with the most basic of knowledge.