Channel NewsAsia: PUB improves SMS alert system for flood risks

Channel NewsAsia has reported on the Public Utilities Board’s (PUB) move to improve the SMS alert system for Singapore. See story below.

PUB improves SMS alert system for flood risks

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB is improving its SMS alert system for flood risks.

In July, it will also make the SMS alert system available for the public to subscribe to.

And the system will also be made more sensitive to rising water levels.

The measures come after building owners at Orchard Road – specifically Tanglin Mall and St Regis – failed to receive SMS alerts about the floods on Sunday morning.

Currently the alert system is only made available to building owners in areas that are susceptible to floods.

Each subscriber receives alerts triggered from water sensors located along drains and canals.

Stamford Canal, which runs through Orchard Road, has seven water sensors.

When it rains, the sensors monitor water levels every two minutes – a shorter frequency compared to 10-minute intervals during dry weather conditions.

When water levels hit the 75% mark (which indicates moderate flood risk) or 90% mark (which indicates a high flood risk), the sensors will trigger off a process to send an SMS alert to subscribers.

The catch is that the system was not designed to trigger an SMS alert when water levels hit 100%. That was why Tanglin Mall and St Regis did not receive the SMS alerts on Sunday.

PUB says that due to the high intensity of rain on Sunday, the water levels had already hit 100% when the water sensor serving the two locations read the levels.

The particular water sensor is located at Stamford Canal near Forum Mall.

“For that particular day, what happened was that the rate of increase for the water was pretty high; it was so high that it bypassed the trigger points of 75% and 90% levels. So the SMS alert was not sent,” said PUB’s director for infocomm department, Peng Kah Poh.

PUB says it has already tweaked the system, such that it will start triggering SMS alerts if water levels hit 100%.

It will also look into shortening the two-minute time interval for monitoring water levels.

“We based the two minutes on past records. We have actually been monitoring these level sensors for the past two to three years, and what actually happened on that Sunday was that the rate of increase of water was at least three to four times….than the worst-case scenario,” said Mr Peng.

The SMS alert system is also useful for PUB. It says that once it receives alerts that water levels have hit the 50% mark in certain sites, it will deploy contractors and staff to those places to check for blockage and monitor the situation. Gratings will also be opened to flush out flood waters where possible.

There are currently 93 water sensors along Singapore’s drains and canals. These will be further increased to 150 by the end of this year.

PUB says it will install water sensors for the drains leading to the Stamford Canal near the junction of Napier Road and Grange Road.

It is also conducting a trial run of monitoring water levels through CCTV cameras like those along Bukit Timah Canal.

Image taken from Faz Abdul Gaffa

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