Western Visayas shares disaster communication tips for LGUs

disaster responders
PREPAREDNESS. Local government responders and uniformed personnel participate in a two-day conference on ICT for DRRM organized by the Office of Civil Defense. Photo by David Lozada/ Rappler

At the ICT Bayanihan Summit held in Iloilo City on Thursday, July 7, local agencies share good practices and challenges in the use of information communication technology during disasters

ILOILO CITY, Philippines (July 9, 2016) — Other local government units, agencies, and groups involved in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) efforts can learn from the experience of responders and communication managers from the Western Visayas region. 

At the ICT Bayanihan Summit held in Iloilo City on Thursday, July 7, local agencies shared good practices in the use of information communication technology during disasters.

The regional office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), as an example, presented BantayPanahon, a web-based rainfall and water level monitoring tool created specifically for the region in 2014.

Ryan Dumpit, DOST-6’s DRRM head, said the idea of developing a site for localized weather reports came about because of their difficulty in simultaneously gathering data from various agencies like Project NOAH and state weather bureau PAGASA.

“We developed BantayPanahon for our use and for faster access for other LGUs. You can see what’s happening in the region in a glance,” Dumpit said.

BantayPanahon utilizes the weather stations and flood monitoring tools of Project NOAH, PAGASA, and local government units in strategic locations.

“We have a verification process when we see high readings in certain areas. We constantly check with our DRRM counterparts and we also broadcast alerts to communities when there are extreme weather conditions,” Dumpit said.

bantay panahon
A screen grab of the BantayPanahon website.

Bloodline of DRRM

Western Visayas or Region VI is no stranger to natural disasters. Located in the country’s typhoon belt, the region is ravaged by typhoon yearly. In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) displaced at least 515,071 families in Western Visayas, which includes the badly hit provinces of Iloilo and Capiz. These families comprised more than half (56%) of the 918,261 displaced families across the country.

Lt Col Edwin Sadang of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) praised how the region has applied the lessons it learned from past disasters.

“Roxas City’s colocation strategy – where the capitol housed all the responders, volunteers, and international groups – during Haiyan is cited as a best practice by the United Nations…But we need to continually examine and check the viability of our key ICT programs,” Sadang said.

“You are the bloodline of disaster risk reduction and management…The challenge is to make sure we create the communication highway so that information could come in,” Sadang added.

The goal of the two-day summit is for the region to form a Rapid Emergency Telecommunication Team (RETT) and standard operating procedures when disasters strike.

According to Sadang, confusion among disaster responders, absence of vital information, and higher loss of lives and destruction of properties are caused by diverse ICT platforms and decentralized DRRM efforts.

“This Bayanihan summit is anchored on 5 Cs – collaborations, cooperation, coordination, communication, commitment,” he added

Sadang challenged the participants to anchor their response on a “whole-of-nation approach” by engaging all their stakeholders in preparing for disasters.

Social media and disasters

How social media was utilized by the OCD and NDRRMC to respond to calls for help and relief goods in past disasters was also tackled at the summit.

MovePH Executive Director Rupert Ambil discussed how the NDRRMC became much more effective in its efforts when it started tapping civil society and the private sector.

“When you don’t have much assets to deploy, you coordinate, communicate and collaborate to scale up…OCD admitted that they cannot do it alone so they got more sectors to help,” Ambil said.

Ambil challenged the groups present to open up communication lines and engage more with their constituents through social media.

“We advocate for government offices to use social media more because of it’s power and reach…It is our responsibility to share information with people who need it the most, especially in times of disasters,” he added.

On Friday, July 8, the teams will be trained to use Smart Communication’s Batingaw App, and Rappler’s disaster and climate change information platform Agos.

  by David Lozada | Rappler.com