When a calamity strikes, telco operations usually level up from routine servicing to virtual life-saving missions. Communication is critical in determining loss of lives and property, in organizing rescue and relief operations, and in reassuring affected communities.
For employees of Smart Communications, reporting for work in a calamity area means not only restoring lines and maintaining service but also participating in relief operations.
When Taal Volcano erupted on January 12, sales supervisor Andy Dipon’s first thought was how to deploy communications support as soon as possible.
Rounding up his team, he went around their area of operations in Batangas to check telco facilities at the same time determine where help was needed and how to address it.
He knew just what to do in that situation; he was in Tacloban when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake shook the Visayas last year.
The collaboration of various units within PLDT and Smart enabled residents in disaster areas in Batangas, Cavite, and Laguna to avail of free calls and battery charging, and Wi-Fi services at evacuation centers and other locations.
Through joint efforts with the Tulong Kapatid social responsibility consortium of companies led by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, relief packages containing food, water, hygiene kits, medicines, and other essentials were distributed.
Dipon and his teammates even coordinated with local government workers in locating missing residents. A regular volunteer for relief operations, fund raisers, tree-planting and blood-donation drives, he mused: “We’re not just employees; we are first and foremost humans, called to do our part to serve humanity.”
Earlier, in December, senior engineer Bryan Ian Abapo, based in Aklan, reported for duty immediately after Typhoon Ursula devastated the Visayas – never mind that he was on leave and it was Christmas Day. Restoring service in badly hit areas could not wait.
He had begun receiving network updates from his team mates in Kalibo while he was at home in Iloilo with his wife and in-laws.
“My family understood why I had to go back to work; and how important it was to get the service fixed right away,” Abapo said.
Cancelling his leave, he stayed in Kalibo to fast-track the network servicing, going home only to celebrate New Year then returning to work the next day. Communication lines were soon restored; the team’s sacrifices had paid off.
Reynold Agramonte of Smart’s distributor sales group was part of the team that set up free call and charging stations and distributed relief goods. The winds were stronger than forecast, reminiscent of supertyphoon Yolanda, prompting him to call and check on his family while assisting typhoon survivors.
One “libreng tawag” station was set up in a Smart store in Roxas City, Capiz, which stayed open even on a holiday. Branch manager Mary Christine Amerila said the Capizeño community was appreciative.
Similarly, Michael Angulo, senior engineer in Capiz, worked on New Year’s Eve to help restore services downed by the typhoon.
“Working during the holidays is challenging, but addressing customers’ needs is what matters most,” he said. For some of them, it’s a matter of life and death, he added.