You know, this was the topic at dinner tonight, since everyone in attendance were Filipinos. I think using the physical infrastructure of the phone is such a great idea. Though, given its current nature, I'm not sure how easy it would be to call for help.
Fortunately, as far as I am aware, only a very few people ended up dying as hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated and all naval vessels and large aircraft were put on alert in case of emergency. As someone intimately familiar with how things can go in the Philippines, I have to say that I'm so thrilled at the foresight and planning that went into planning for the super typhoon.
I hear you. I think that this technology has a lot of potential utility and I really hope to see it grow. It really seems like it could provide a good platform for pushing communications technology as fundamental, especially if it were to be proven effective in doing things like acting as a kind of public warning system in addition to being functional for individual users.