‘Social media can save lives’ – NCR LGUs & CSOs

David Lozada
‘Social media can save lives’ – NCR LGUs & CSOs
Over 70 participants gather for a workshop on how social media can help disaster managers gather and share information during times of crises
MANILA, Philippines – When Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) hit Metro Manila in September of 2009, 246 people died due to flooding in Marikina while, in one Pasig barangay alone, some 30,000 people were forced to leave their homes

The two cities have since learned from the tragedy of Ondoy. But disaster management officials say, closer coordination and communication between the national government, the local governments and the public at that time could’ve saved more lives. 

A screen grab from the Agos map shows how the Marikina river passes through Pasig City.

Ondoy also taught the public another lesson: the potential for social media to contribute to informing the public about the hazards and gathering information that could help others. 

Social good

In an effort to help improve disaster communication and information management of LGUs and civil society organizations (CSOs) in Metro Manila, Rappler, in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Australian Embassy in the Philippines, conducted a capacity building workshop for local disaster managers and civil society representatives on Monday, November 17, 2014. 

The workshop participants were taught how to utilize social media to improve the way government and civil society disaster management professionals communicate with each other and with the public. 

The participants were also taught how to use Project Agos, Rappler’s disaster information platform that combines top-down government action with bottom-up civic engagement that aids decision making in times of crises and bridges the information divide that separates the government from the public. 

INNOVATE. DILG NCR director Renato Brion challenges local disaster managers to use technologies in response.

According to Renato Brion, DILG’s NCR regional director, LGUs need to constantly up their game to prepare for the next disaster, including learning how to harness the power of social media. 

“We always encourage LGUs: Please step up your investments in capacity building, training communities, and building preparedness. We continue to advocate for bigger people participation in info sharing. Before we rely on telephone lines, now we only have to check Project Agos,” he added.

 Dr. Val Barcinal, acting head of Marikina DRRMO, said social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and Project Agos are useful tools to address communication gaps before, during and after a disaster.

“This is an eye-opener for me. I never really learned how to use social media as part of disaster management. This is an opportunity to use social media as part of our DRRM workflows,” he added. 

Representatives of the Australian Embassy in the Philippines were also present to observe the workshop and lend their support. 

“We see social media as a tool for furthering disaster risk response in the Philippines. The goal is to minimize that impact of climate change and (extreme) weather (events),” said Geoff King, counsellor for development cooperation of the Australian Embassy counsellor.

Australia has actively supported the capacity enhancement of several government agencies such as PAGASA and Phivolcs to produce accurate hazard and exposure maps all over the country. Australia was also one of the top sources of foreign aid for Super Typhoon Yolanda relief and rehabilitation. 

‘Collaboration is key’

During the workshop, representatives of local government units and civil society organizations received training on social media best practices and how Rappler harnessed crowdsourcing for disaster response during Typhoon Haiyan and, most recently, tropical storm Glenda (Rammasun). The various groups were encouraged to work together and learn from each other. 

Barcinal said the exercises confirmed the need for better disaster communication between local governments. He said Project Agos can help by creating a common platform for information gathering and sharing. 

COLLABORATION. Dr Val Barcinal, Marikina DRRM chief, talks about how Project Agos and social media can be integrated in their disaster workflow. All photos by David Lozada/ Rappler

“Collaboration is very important. We could easily monitor each other through Project Agos. There are areas in the border of Marikina that Pasig could easily respond to and we can also respond to areas in Pasig bordering Marikina,” Barcinal said.

He added: “We also have to teach this to our communities, school groups, barangays, so that they’ll be able to use this to give us more information. We can easily respond once we see reports in the alert map.” 

The LGU capacity building workshop in Metro Manila is the first in a series of workshops that will be held across the country in the next 6 months with the assistance of the Australian government. – Rappler.com 

Project Agos is managed by Rappler’s civic-engagement arm, MovePH, in partnership with various agencies of the Philippine government, civil society organizations, the private sector and the Australian Embassy in the Philippines. 

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For more information on Project Agos, visit the website or email: move.ph@rappler.com.

Learn more about the Social Good Summit where Project Agos was first launched. 

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