This web-based app helps citizens map flooded areas during disasters

How can you check if your area is in danger of being flooded?

Hoping to help Filipinos locate and map flooded areas during disasters, Indonesia-based non-profit organization Yayasan Peta Bencana (Disaster Map Foundation) created Mapakalamidad.ph, a web-based platform that provides crowdsourced and up-to-date flood information. 

Mapakalamidad.ph launched on Thursday, September 10.

Through Mapakalamidad.ph, Filipinos can access real-time flood reports, and see severely flooded communities, municipalities, and even barangays on the web-based map.

Flooded areas from confirmed reports will appear as hotspots in the map to help citizens and disaster units identify the areas that need immediate disaster response. 

The tool also features color-coded flood warnings to inform users about real-time flood height in areas struck by typhoons. To determine flood depth in affected communities, users can be guided by the following warnings: 

  • Red - greater than 150 cm
  • Orange - 71-150 cm
  • Yellow - 10-70 cm

Meanwhile, a purple warning in the map means people must exercise caution when passing by the area.

Mapalakalamidad.ph is part of the Office of Civil Defense’s PhilAWARE, a national hazard monitoring, early warning, and decision support system. PhilAWARE is also powered by Pacific Disaster Center’s (PDC) hazard monitoring and early warning system DisasterAWARE.

Hoping to help foster better disaster response decisions in the Philippines, the Pacific Disaster Center pushed for the creation of a web-based mapping platform in the country to bolster PhilAWARE.

The idea came after PDC witnessed the success of Yayasan Peta Bencana’s Petabencana.id, a web-based map in Indonesia that provides real-time disaster reports. This inspired the center to partner with the Indonesian organization to replicate the platform in the Philippines.

Being newly launched, the Philippine version of the web-based map is only confined to flood reporting. The Indonesian website, however, covers reports for other natural disasters as it has been operational since 2013.

As the tool is still in its pilot phase, Mapakalamidad.ph is only available in Pampanga and Quezon City to help local disaster managers in identifying areas that need rapid disaster response. 

These pilot sites were selected by the Office of the Civil Defense and National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, the implementing agencies for the development of the PhilAWARE Program.

How netizens can take part

Supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Mapakalamidad.ph underscores how citizens can help reduce casualties during disasters by empowering Filipinos to report flood information.

“Mapakalamidad adds a new dimension to data and information collection by empowering citizens to directly report hazards, critical lifelines, and damages in their neighborhoods via social media apps and mobile apps,” said USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Regional Advisor Joseph Curry.

The information that will appear in the website will come from submitted and verified reports of netizens through various social media platforms. 

On Facebook, users can report real-time flood information by messaging Mapakalamidad.ph with photos, location, and description of the situation. Telegram users can also submit their reports by messaging /flood to @kalamidadbot. 

Netizens from Twitter can also do their part in reporting flood information by tweeting the hashtag #flood to @mapakalamidad

These reports will then be verified by local government units and put in the web-based map. The system also automatically checks their validity based on the volume of similar reports they received.

Once in the map, a shareable link of the report will also be provided to users to inform the public and disaster units about locations that need immediate response to achieve minimal loss and damage. 

“In the true spirit of bayanihan, Mapakalamidad gives us a tool that everyone can use together in disaster response, essentially connecting every barangay right to the top,” said Curry. 

The platform not only allows Filipinos to report the situation in their area but also helps local disaster units see the scale of the impact.

“With this platform, it will hopefully be easier for authorities to visualize the much-needed data for their response activities during disasters,” said Manaysay. 

Push towards nationwide coverage

With the platform only catering to a limited number of locations so far,  Yayasan Peta Bencana hopes to eventually make Mapakalamidad.ph accessible to other areas in the country.

While no definite date has been set yet for the expansion of its coverage, the organization is hoping to make this accessible on a national level by 2021.

According to Manaysay, Yayasan Peta Bencana are also targeting to expand the features of the platform by covering other types of disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and fires, which they were able to do in their Indonesian platform.

For now, the team plans to conduct virtual training sessions to volunteers, community-based organizations, and local government unit staff from Pampanga and Quezon City to raise awareness about the features and role of Mapakalamidad.ph in times of flood situations. 

“We hope to challenge the one-way, traditional notion that citizens are mere beneficiaries by involving and empowering them to become social partners in disaster risk reduction. After all, the project is really about promoting a sense of civic co-management between the government and the people,” Manaysay said. – Rappler.com

Lance Mejico

Lance Mejico is a Rappler volunteer from De La Salle University-Dasmariñas. He is an incoming junior taking up Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism. Currently, he serves as the Director for Programming and External Affairs of 95.9 Green FM, the official radio station of DLSU-Dasmariñas.

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