By Anjo Bacarisas
DISASTER imagination is the key for disaster response agencies to act early on any calamities through anticipating dangers that would probably cause damage and take lives in high-risk communities.
Secretary Mario Montejo, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary, said early warnings from advance prediction equipment will trigger disaster imagination that will lead to early response to threats from nature.
Montejo said warnings like storm signals issued by agencies should prompt early action from the community to adopt plans like evacuation before the storm or staying in areas identified as disaster-safe zones.
Montejo said aside from the tools in the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (Pagasa), the Project Noah and Dream Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) will help disaster risk reduction agencies collect reliable data for early response.
He said there are 150 scientists who are manning Project NOAH and Dream LiDAR technology to gather more data extending weather forecast and rain probability from hours to days.
Soon, the advance weather detection tools will aid in commerce and agricultural planning in the country, he added.
Montejo said Project NOAH was conceived after “Sendong” hit the Philippines, especially in the cities of Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan.
He said over 100 local government units (LGUs) received 3D flood hazard maps to identify areas vulnerable to floods so they can alert the communities before any disaster strikes.
The mapping of 18 major basins in the Philippines will be conducted this year. Included in the mapping are the river systems of Barangay Iponan and Mandulog in Iligan.
He said scientists are working on surveying 10,000 hectares in just half a day using an advance technology called LiDAR.
Meanwhile, Ana Cañeda of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD)-Northern Mindanao said the maps that will be provided by the advanced weather and disaster detection tools will help communities.
“Aside from that, the maps have larger scale, they are very useful because they can be manipulated which can be appreciated by the villages,” Cañeda said.
She added that the information from the tools will give the village personnel to decide on the type of response during disasters.
“This gives them the power to decide before disasters — these instruments will give them the power to hold information and use it to their advantage,” she said.
Previously, the response time was six hours before disasters can hit an area.
“Now, the target is 24 hours so before disaster strikes we can have time to make vital decisions on what should be done in disaster-prone areas,” Cañeda said.
Renato Solidum, director of DOST-Phivolcs, said his office seeks to reach the LGUs with regard the right preparation during disasters and the appropriate response.
He said the tools in LiDAR need high resolution topography to generate simulated models that are detailed and accurate.
He added that for the people to understand better, it uses visual imagery that is deemed to be a universal language.
Solidum said the images, which can be printed, will make visible the trees and the houses in each village.
The people will understand the images that will prompt actions like evacuating to relocation sites, among others.
Although the mapping is not yet complete for Northern Mindanao, they already have ample data from the city and barangay levels.
Cañeda said during disasters, the barangay officials through the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council will make a spot report and submit it to the city mayor.
He added the mayor then, or the mayors, will pass on the data to the governor, and the governor will forward all the data of the barangays to the OCD.
Raymond Liboro, DOST assistant secretary, said during blackouts, it is important for the people to use battery-operated radios.
He said if the technology is inaccessible, they will link with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas to disseminate information during disasters.
Liboro stressed on the big role the press play in disseminating information to the public.
This article was originally published in Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on 11 March 2014.