MANILA, Philippines – At 5 pm on Saturday, August 13, as soon as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) raised the alert level to red, the corresponding alert light in the operations center of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was turned on.
This signalled the agency’s heightened response to the southwest monsoon or habagat using its new Virtual Operations Center (VOC). The online platform was launched just last August 3 by the Disaster Response and Management Bureau (DReaMB) at the DSWD central office.
Thanks to the VOC, DReaMB Director Felino Castro V could still monitor and gather reports from the field and social media on Saturday, while he was at the NDRRMC operations center.
The data that the DSWD needs to send assistance was at Castro’s fingertips, and these information are also accessible to the public.
Overnight, as the monsoon rains continued to pound the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, and Calabarzon, Castro’s team monitored various efforts to evacuate residents from low-lying and flood-prone areas.
The VOC indicated that the DSWD was prepared to respond if affected areas needed additional help. The agency had around P900 million on standby for the purchase of emergency relief supplies. The online platform also showed that the agency prepared 540,000 family packs for distribution to affected families.
By 6 am on Sunday, August 14, the VOC posted a situational report showing that at least 79 evacuation centers were opened in affected areas in Luzon, serving 3,888 families.
With the help of MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, the evacuation centers were plotted on the Agos map powered by eBayanihan on Sunday. The evacuation map can also be viewed on the VOC.
Agos is a collaborative platform that combines top-down government action with bottom-up civic engagement to help communities mitigate risks and deal with climate change and natural hazards.
The DSWD is using the map to track the status of evacuation centers. It is also being used to inform donors who wish to help evacuees. (READ: DSWD to donors: Tweet your #ReliefPH operations)
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo encouraged the public to donate relief goods to affected families.
Through the VOC, the DSWD said it is making available to the public information on the agency’s disaster preparedness and response efforts. Technology, in this case, is being used to promote transparency and good governance.
“Information is power, and we want this power to be used by Filipinos so they themselves can find means to prepare for calamities and help themselves immediately when calamities strike,” Taguiwalo said.
The online platform also includes the following features:
- Hazards information from NDRRMC partner agencies
- Exposure datasets from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the DSWD’s list of poor families
- Predictive analytics for humanitarian response
“It is our goal to continually improve the mechanisms for disaster response,” Castro said. “The sharing of information through this facility is a very important step towards attaining our shared vision for disaster response.” – Rappler.com