The Daily Manila Shimbun


Pagers Gaining Renewed Attention in Wake of Disasters

September 13, 2018

Tokyo- Pager telecommunication devices, which were popular in the 1990s, are gaining attention again in Japan in the wake of recent disasters.

As the pagers use special frequencies that can reach inside buildings easily, the radio waves are employed for receivers set up in citizens' houses to carry evacuation information and other messages.

Municipalities across Japan are pinning hopes on the frequency bands of the handy devices amid difficulties getting information to residents via their local radio communications systems alone in times of torrential rain, when the rain may drown out the sound of message broadcasts.

In fiscal 2017, the city of Takahashi in the western Japan prefecture of Okayama started to lend the devices out to its citizens.

One city official said that the municipal government did not receive any negative feedback from residents unable to get messages during the torrential rain that mainly hit western Japan in July this year. In fact, the devices were complimented for being very helpful during evacuation.

In Hita, in the southwestern prefecture of Oita, the city government is also considering using such devices, after residents said that they could not hear important information shared via outdoor speakers. The city was damaged in the deluge and flooding that hit the northern part of Kyushu southwestern region in 2017.

The move comes after the city judged its disaster response emails to be inadequate as many elderly people do not have mobile phones.

According to the Tokyo Telemessage Inc., the only company in Japan active in wireless disaster warning systems using the pager frequencies, the wavelength is shorter than those of local wireless communications systems and they can reach inside houses easily.

Like conventional pagers, the company's devices receive text information. Its receivers, however, are also equipped with a text-to-voice feature.

While radio communications systems limit their wave output to avoid radio frequency interference with neighboring municipalities, pager frequencies can carry messages with a high output signal. This feature allows municipalities to send messages to receivers across a wide area with a limited number of transmission facilities.

Tokyo Telemessage's wireless communications systems started to gain popularity five years ago and are now in use by some 30 municipalities across Japan. The Tokyo-based firm has received orders for over 170,000 receivers so far.

Hidetoshi Seino, head of the company, estimated that the number of receivers in use may eventually exceed the 1.3 million units recorded in the peak era for the pagers.

"We are certain that (the receivers) will help protect the residents' lives and properties," Seino, 64, said. "Our task is to spread them throughout Japan." Jiji Press