Tacloban to launch 'color-coded' evacuation plan by June
MANILA, Philippines – Tacloban City in Leyte is set to launch a color-coded evacuation plan before the typhoon season begins this June, said its disaster management chief, Ildebrando Bernadas.
The plan, the first of its kind in the Philippines, will make use of color-coded IDs for hazard-prone families and color-coded evacuation centers in the Eastern Visayas city, recognized as "ground zero" of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan).
"We did an inventory of those to be evacuated and the capacity of the evacuation centers. We will be formally launching [the ID system] by the end of May as we finish the inventory. But we've printed all the materials," Bernadas told Rappler after he spoke at a forum in Makati on Thursday, on March 5.
In the system, each family living near the coastline will be given an ID with the picture of the head of household. On the backside of the card is the list of family members.
Each member will be accompanied by a profile with information on their special needs while inside the evacuation center.
"If the person needs medicine, what kind of medicine? Is the person disabled?" Bernadas explained.
Each ID is color-coded to match the evacuation center they must head to when the local government tells them to evacuate.
The ID system works hand-in-hand with color-coded evacuation centers. Families only need to find the evacuation center with the same color as their ID in the evacuation map of their barangay.
Before the IDs were printed, the city first made an inventory of all the families that will require evacuation in the event of a typhoon. They also made an inventory of the capacity of each evacuation center.
The plans are so detailed, said Bernadas, that "as you go to the evacuation center, you are also directed to your room."
Bernadas' office will be printing a total of 22,000 IDs and distributing them by the end of May. This is in preparation of the typhoon season, which, based on their experience, begins in June.
Systems like this are vital for effective evacuation operations because they help evacuees save themselves, said Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Austere Panadero.
"People should know what to do themselves and where to go. Right now, the government has to send a dump truck to their homes to take them out. They should voluntarily go to the evacuation centers," he said.
It also helps the city ensure evacuation centers are not overcrowded.
Bernadas said their new evacuation system was based on topographic and hazard maps given to Tacloban by aid group Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), one of the international NGOs that have been actively working with the government on Yolanda rehabilitation.
The maps led the city to revise its local building ordinance and improve its evacuation plan, said Bernadas. (READ: 6 ways climate change will affect PH cities)
The topographic map show the geologic characteristics of the city, such as where the ground is below sea level and where it is full of steep slopes. The hazard maps show which areas in the city are prone to specific hazards – storm surge, flooding, and landslides.
Aside from Tacloban, 17 other LGUs in Eastern Visayas received maps and other forms of assistance from JICA.
These maps helped ensure zero casualty during Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit) in many of the beneficiary LGUs, said Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Assistant Secretary Gina Dela Cruz.
Tacloban is also in the process of opening access roads to evacuation centers, as suggested by JICA. The group recommends that access roads by the sea should be elevated so that it remains usable even during inclement weather.
The typhoon-prone city has more evacuation centers now than it had right after Yolanda.
The freak storm destroyed 20% of its evacuation centers, whittling it down to 52. Today, Tacloban has 103 evacuation centers. But many of these are temporary evacuation centers – warehouses, university halls, and churches allowed by their owners to be used for such a purpose.
Bernadas said 4 permanent evacuation centers are set to be completed within the year.
The city has also established 3 operation centers equipped with relief goods, equipment, and personnel.
"During Yolanda, all our communications were wiped out. This time, we have 3 so that if one or two are washed out, there is at least one that is functional," said Bernadas.
In May, the city will also start "color-coding" electric posts in flood-prone areas. These posts will be painted with color-coded lines to indicate the depth of water floods can reach in the area to warn people of the danger they may be in.
Constant updating needed
Nobuo Iwama, team leader of the JICA Study Team, said Tacloban was making "good progress" in its rehabilitation.
JICA helped build and reconstruct public markets, daycare centers, and schools in the 18 beneficiary LGUs. They also provided equipment to revive fisheries and agriculture – a source of livelihood for most people in the affected towns and cities.
But a lot more remains to be done, said Iwama. Though the city now has hazard maps, new evacuation centers, and improved disaster plans, the challenge is to sustain these initiatives.
That's why JICA decided to extend its project duration. It was supposed to end this May, but the group has extended it until March 2016.
"The hazard map is not a permanent tool, only a temporary tool because the climate changes. You have to continue updating and improving it," said Iwama.
He cited the example of drastic changes in population which should be reflected in hazard maps. It only follows that evacuation plans must be improved for "seamless execution."
For the next 12 months, JICA said it would focus on educating LGU leaders and disaster management officers on how to understand and properly use the maps.
It will also strengthen its alternative livelihood projects so that citizens will be able to sustain their livelihoods on their own.
All 171 cities and towns in the Yolanda corridor are supposed to receive integrated hazard maps from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The DENR has already completed its geohazard assessment of these LGUs and the DOST has established a Yolanda Information Center from where LGUs can get hazard maps.
Dela Cruz said, "The next step is to mainstream the maps to the LGUs and translate them to safety maps." – Rappler.com