Antique town invests in early warning systems to ‘save lives’

Antique town invests in early warning systems to ‘save lives’
The town of San Jose de Buenavista, a Gawad Kalasag Hall of Famer, launches an InfoBoard service so critical information reaches residents in times of calamities

ANTIQUE, Philippines – The onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) became the wake-up call for many Filipinos to take the issue of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) seriously and effectively.

For local government units (LGUs), the Yolanda experience serves as a warning that they need to level up their DRRM programs. This is exactly what the town of San Jose de Buenavista in Antique province is doing.

The town’s Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) earlier launched its InfoBoard Service in April 20, 2015, to make sure its residents are informed the next time a disaster strikes.

The InfoBoard Service is a web-based solution powered by Smart that offers SMS facilities with different functions and capabilities catering to the needs of the MDRRMO San Jose Early Warning System. 

“The SMS or text broadcast from the InfoBoard now form part of our municipal early warning system,” said Fe Corazon Malaya S. Tacogdoy, Municipal DRRM Officer II. 

The capabilities of the InfoBoard are:

  • sending out early warning text broadcast to only pre-registered Smart subscribers;
  • receiving feedback, comments, suggestions, queries and other user-specific messages;
  • providing general information, advisories, announcements;
  • conducting polls and surveys and providing real time results; and
  • creating customized SMS solutions.

In one click, the information is sent to all the people in the directory. Compared to their previous platform, the SMART InfoBoard has more SMS-sending capacity and is free for LGU-use.  

“So far, we have found the InfoBoard SMS broadcast to be effective and able to send information to our targets – the key decision-makers, such as the punong barangays, school principals and members of the Municipal DRRM Council,” she said.

The InfoBoard is completely free with Smart providing MDDRMO San Jose de Buenavista 400 free sim cards and 10,000 free texts a month. 

The MDRRMO already distributed 5 sim cards to each of the municipality’s 28 barangays.

According to Tacogdoy, San Jose MDRRMO decided to establish the InfoBoard because SMS broadcast was already an established practice in San Jose. “We chose to adopt the use of the InfoBoard because it will allow us to send messages and information at no cost at all for the LGU,” she added.

Early warning systems

The InfoBoard compliments the town’s early warning systems, a major component of DRRM in terms of mitigating the loss of lives and reducing damge to property.

“The information we gather from monitoring early warning agencies such as PAGASA and PHIVOLCS is fed into the InfoBoard and in turn sent to people listed in the InfoBoard directory,” Tacogdoy said.

An effective early warning system needs the active participation of the community in order to effectively disseminate alerts and warnings to people at risk. There are Municipal DRRM Office staff who monitor the websites of the following agencies for weather-related reports: the national weather bureau PAGASA, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), and Project NOAH.

The town’s infoboard issues weather, flood, earthquake and tsunami-related warnings and advisories.

EARLY WARNING. The Infoboard provides advance disaster communications for the local community. Photo from Anthony Mondragon

For earthquake and tsunami warnings and advisories, they also monitor the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC).

Model LGU

In 2012, San Jose de Buenavista was awarded the Best Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council for the 1st to 3rd Class Municipality Category in the Philippines.

This feat placed the town in the Hall of Fame as it had received the same National Gawad Kalasag award for the same category from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in 2010 and 2011. 

The Gawad Kalasag (KAlamidad at Sakuna LAbanan SAriling Galing ang Kaligtasan) Award – a national citation for exemplary initiatives in disaster management – recognizes individuals, groups or institutions that have shown extraordinary courage, heroism, self-sacrifice, and bravery in times of natural and human-made emergencies and disasters.

“Early warning is very important and the LGUs need to invest in it. When we invest, we also have to be wise. The EWS need not very expensive,” Tacogdoy said.

“The InfoBoard is very applicable to San Jose since most of the areas have mobile network signal and internet services are available. Interested LGUs need to consider this if they would like to use this kind of technology,” she concluded. – Rappler.com

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