By Dionard Mendova, DOST-Caraga S&T Promotions Unit
February last year, tropical depression ‘Basyang’ left trees toppled, flooded streets and several large landslides in the region. Road sections and some bridges remained unpassable for weeks after its landfall in Cortes, Surigao del Sur. DSWD-Caraga reported that victims swelled up to a total of 14,104 families from 4 provinces with 34 municipalities and 170 barangays in Caraga Region. Casualties rose up to 32 with 16 who were injured and one still missing.
That prompted the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) of Agusan del Norte and DOST-Caraga to utilize more disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) strategies and partnerships with agencies to help mitigate risks brought by natural disasters like Typhoon ‘Basyang’. DOST-Caraga trained the team on using DOST-developed DRRM web-based information systems under its project on Science and Technology Operations for Risk Reduction and Management (Project STORRM), January 23.
Ms. Merry Chris Cabonce, the Local Disaster Risk Reduction Officer II (LDRRMO) of Agusan del Norte recalled that they were barely looking at hazard maps before and lacked understanding on how serious some forecasts can be. “Enough training, people, and facility would have had greatly helped us to take appropriate actions, and warn people and the community officials as early as possible,” the Officer told on an interview.
DOST-Caraga IT personnel Ms. Reyjean Comaling demonstrating how to manage STORRM systems among PDRRMO Staff
The training aimed to equip the team of PDRRMO-ADN on using technologies to help them interpret data, manage the systems, efficiently disseminate information, and take appropriate actions to mitigate risks, especially in flood prone areas.
DOST-Caraga sits as the Vice Chair for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC). Regional Director Dominga Mallonga believes in providing Science-based information and establishing centers as knowledge repository in communities to develop appropriate mitigation strategies and contribute to a climate change-resilient region. Project STORRM, a DOST Caraga Grants-In-Aid (GIA) project initiative, was born for that purpose.
There are a total of 11 STORRM centers established in Local Government Units in the region including Patin-ay, Agusan del Sur, Province of Surigao del Norte, Tandag city, Province of Dinagat Islands, Butuan City, Cabadbaran City, Bayugan City, Surigao City, Jabonga and Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte.
STORRM Centers have access to several web-based hazard monitoring systems such as the Hazard Notification, Dissemination and Awareness (HaNDA) which is developed by DOST-4A. HanDA system disseminates disaster-related updates, gathers field reports during disasters, and obtain data from early warning devices installed by DOST in LGUs.
Another system developed by DOST-4A is called LGUIDS. The Local Government Unit Information and Dissemination System or LGUIDS displays updates from PAG-ASA, PHIVOLCS and RDDRRMC. It also includes farming and fishing updates from government Agricultural Agencies such as DA and BFAR. It also generates near real-time updates from DOST hydrometeorological sensors. The system can also serve as repository for information like hazard maps, contact numbers of LGU officials, school personnel, and other selected residents.
STORRM also utilizes systems developed by DOST and Caraga State University’s projects on Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) like the detailed flood hazard forecasting system – Flood Event Visualization and Damage Estimations or Flood EVIDEns. It contains flood hazard maps and generates forecasted scenarios like estimated number of affected structures and areas according to flood hazard levels. These systems can help communities create more informed decisions in DRRM.
According to the PDRRMO-ADN, Project STORRM has been a huge help to them especially on Pre-Disaster Risk Management (PDRA) operations in the province. Cabonce mentioned that the project helped them change the behavior of people when it comes to disaster preparedness and resiliency.
“We have managed people to become more cautious and responsible in DRRM in their respective areas,” said Cabonce.