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Pagers gaining new function as lifeline during disasters

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Pager telecommunication devices, which were popular in the 1990s, are gaining attention again 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 the country 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, Takahashi, Oka- yama Prefecture, 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.

Hita, Oita Prefecture, is also considering using such devices, after residents said they could not hear important information shared via outdoor speakers. The city was damaged in flooding that hit northern Kyushu 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.

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