By Ma. Cristina C. Arayata
MANILA, July 22 (PNA) — Doctors always say prevention is better than cure. Prevention is also key to disaster resilience.
”Under the Aquino administration, we invested a lot of money. This time, not for assistance, but for (disaster) prevention,” said Alfredo Majar Lagmay, executive director, Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project Noah).
The government acknowledges that people need to rely on themselves, and not just be dependent on others. Lagmay explained that aid is good, but Filipinos need to be prepared. “Hindi yung critical times saka pa lang tatawag (ng saklolo),” he added.
As such, President Benigno Aquino III instructed the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to create a responsive program for disaster risk reduction and mitigation that will provide lead-time warning against possible floods and landslides.
In July 2012, Project NOAH was launched. This, Lagmay emphasized, is more than just a website. It’s a more responsive program on disaster preparedness, and it uses local resources and local capabilities, he added.
He described that NOAH transforms weather forecasts to impact scenarios/assessment, which is then cascaded up to barangay level. Lagmay noted that accessible warning from the government is useless without appropriate action from the community.
How does the project work? NOAH has different components which keeps on growing in number. Among the main components include the UP DREAM LIDAR, Hydromet, and Climate X.
For the DREAM LIDAR (a technology that uses detailed topographic maps of the Philippines), Lagmay said the government spent Php 2 billion to map out the entire Philippines. He said the price might sound big, but this is nothing compared to the help it brings. This actually brings big savings in terms of preventing disasters and other possible disaster aftermaths.
Furthermore, Lagmay emphasized that having a high resolution hazard map is necessary.
Mapping the entire country is crucial in creating hazard maps and storm surge maps. He cited that it is important for the community to be familiar with hazard maps.
Now, where will you go if for example, the government announces there might be a storm surge in your area tomorrow? The storm surge map will provide you the answers. Lagmay noted that every landscape has a different structure in every barangay. Thus, the whole country really had to be mapped out.
The Hydromet (project), meanwhile, aims to use state of the art tracking equipment that will give better picture of the country’s surface waters. At present, there are 1,499 hydrometeorological sensors installed all over the country.
What if you’re heading somewhere for a quick out of town trip? How would you know if the weather is okay in that place?
First, there’s the Climate X which tracks the clouds to predicts places where there may be rainshowers. It has an 88.6 percent accuracy according to Lagmay. Cloud data will then be converted to predict the intensity. Thus, you would be warned where there’s a big chance of flooding and landslide.
Through Doppler Radar, meanwhile, you where it rains, in real time. Using the application (app) in your mobile device, you would determine where it rains and even view the details for the last hour or the last three hours.
The app also gives you a hint on how intense the rain is in every province. Lagmay said that 100 mm rains usually cause floods and landslides.
It’s not just helpful for those who are planning to travel, but for the communities, more importantly. “The community has at least three hours or more to get out,” Lagmay said.
Lagmay, meanwhile, noted that of course, the country has areas that are safe from landslide, flood and storm surges hazards. On average, there’s 40-50 percent safe areas per province according to him.
These areas are also being monitored because these are suitable for development and for evacuation.
Learning from experience
While the world knows that many people died from typhoon Yolanda, and thousands were affected, the government learned from this and used this in typhoon Ruby.
Lagmay cited that the country may have experienced failure in terms of communication and visuals during typhoon Yolanda, but clarified that there was no hazard maps yet at that time.
Project NOAH has success stories, too. Among these include the zero casualty recorded in Marikina amidst typhoon Maring in 2013.
Marikina government was able to relocate families in flood-prone areas in a systematic and efficient way. Project NOAH provided the local government and the residents 3-6 lead time to evacuate.
He also mentioned zero casualty was recorded in Cagayan De Oro amidst typhoon Pablo in 2012. (PNA)