DOST pilots ‘Moses’ project in Marikina (Business Mirror)

MARIKINA CITY—The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) turned over on June 10 some 20 units of computer tablets that can help enhance the disaster preparedness of barangays in Marikina City and prevent casualties from floods.

The Mobile Operational System for Emergency Services (Moses) tablets offer a two-way communication between warning agencies and disaster responders to help the local community map and enhance its information about disaster risks and vulnerabilities in the area, as well as look into existing evacuation centers and its safety. It is part of the eight-core components of the DOST’s Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project Noah).

Marikina is the first barangay to receive the technology.

In 2009 Marikina was among the hardest-hit communities by Typhoon Ondoy. The city was submerged in floods that reached up to two levels of most homes. The floods occurred when the nearby Marikina River overflowed when Ondoy dumped a month’s worth of rain—about 300 millimeters—in just a span of six hours, resulting in the rapid rise of floodwaters that killed hundreds and paralyzed most of Luzon.

By working with the DOST and Project Noah, the city was able to prevent casualties from floods during the onslaught of habagat 2012 and 2013. Despite the rapid rise of floodwaters to Ondoy-like levels, which occurred at least four times during the habagat season, there were zero casualties from the events after the local communities evacuated hours ahead using the warnings regarding the time of the monsoon’s landfall and corresponding rainfall level.

“Information can help save lives and with the introduction of the Moses tablets, we hope to streamline a two-way communication between warning agencies and local responders, thus enhancing the disaster preparedness in communities,” said Dr. Mahar Lagmay, executive director of Project Noah, said.

The tablets will be given to each of the 16 barangays in Marikina, who will then help collect information related to disaster preparedness, such as access lanes, evacuation routes and critical lifeline facilities to enrich the information on the Project Noah web site and database.

Using the Moses tablet, a barangay disaster officer or chairman can go around the community to take pictures of evacuation centers, schools and hospitals, as well as crucial lifeline services. The images are then uploaded via 3G or Wi-Fi on the Project Noah web site map and are automatically geotagged to be provide disaster responders a more visual map of the area in relation to available facilities, or lack thereof during disaster preparedness.

In the event of a typhoon, the tablet can also be used to monitor water level in the rivers as soon as a storm signal is raised in the community. Photos of flood levels can also be sent to national warning agencies and the Project Noah team for data verification and search-and-rescue operations.

This is in addition to the capacity of barangay leaders to receive advisories and warnings on their community from the country’s national disaster command center, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Marikina was chosen for the project because of its technical capability in terms of manpower and infrastructure for disaster management, owing to its successful implementation of disaster preparedness that led to zero casualties during the habagat 2012 and 2013 floods.

The Moses tablet is among the communication lines being utilized by the DOST and national warning agencies, along with broadcast radio, text message blasts and bulletin boards.

Lagmay said he believes the Moses tablet is the first of its kind in Asia that harnesses science innovations and local know-how to come up with an enhanced community-disaster plan.

Local community leaders and local chief executives play an important role in creating safer and resilient communities by integrating disaster preparedness in their local development, land use and disaster-management plans, noted Renato Brion, NCR regional director, Department of the Interior Local Government (DILG).

“The key here is the active involvement of local leaders by tapping them to provide accurate visual information of what is happening in the barangay in the event of the disaster and, most important, what are the preparations currently being undertaken so we can identify gaps and remedy it ahead of the disasters,” Brion noted.

The DILG and the DOST has an ongoing partnership in educating local chief executives and disaster managers about the importance of early-warning systems and disaster preparedness during the “Iba na angPanahon: Science for Safer Communities” national campaign held in 17 regions of the country.

S&T Media Service

This article was originally published in the Business Mirror on June 14, 2014. 

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