Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) Nepal is in the process of operationalizing the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) v 1.2 – enabled Sahana Alerting and Messaging Broker (SAMBRO): DHM Nepal Warning and Situational-Awareness System.
I have been working closely with friends from DHM in helping to get the system up and running. DHM is expected to run some silent tests and simulations to get acquainted with the system before using it for the upcoming Monsoon season. Following the operationalization of the system at DHM for some time and analyzing the performance of the system, National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) is expected to install and use the platform.
A training program was carried out to train the staffs from the DHM and NEOC including the private organizations – Real Time Solutions (RTS) and Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL). RTS has been a local vendor for DHM. They have been working with DMH for a long time. RTS will do the upgrades and maintenance of the SAMBRO. KLL has been doing a data collection project with Practical Action utilizing the Open Data Kit (ODK) platform.
The training was held at the Hotel Manaslu, in Kathmandu, on 10-11 December 2017. The training was hosted by the Practical Action, Nepal in collaboration with DHM. The CAP-enabled SAMBRO system has been possible through the funding support from Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP) of Practical Action, Nepal.
The training was intended to:
- Give general introduction of Sahana and different templates/applications developed under the Sahana.
- Create awareness regarding the Cross Agency Situational Awareness (CASA).
- Explain how the CAP can be used to solve the alerting problem and standardization among different governmental organization at different administrative jurisdiction.
- Give a brief introduction to other Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL) including EDXL Situational Reporting (SitRep), EDXL Resource Messaging (RM).
- Discuss among the stakeholders regarding the CAP Organization ID at the different level.
- Train the private organizations – RTS and KLL regarding the technical aspect, maintenance, and upgrade of the system.
- Build DHM and NEOC capacity to use SAMBRO and adopt the CAP messaging standard.
- Create an opportunity for the Stakeholders to discuss the uptake and integration of CAP-NP and/or SAMBRO in their warning practices.
Following the training activity in Nepal, DHM should run simulation so that the system can be used for the upcoming Monsoon season. They understand that not all the stakeholders (e.g. Fire, Forest, Agriculture etc.) are still included in the Common Alerting System, and hence their roles in the ground level should never be forgotten. However, the system has been designed in a way that a single instance at DHM should be able to cover them as well. The following points list important steps that DHM should perform in order to have the system ready by Monsoon.
Server at the premises
As the system is ready, DHM should consider getting a Linux Debian Server that can be used for hosting the SAMBRO. The SAMBRO should be a subdomain of the main DHM website (http://www.dhm.gov.np/) so that the authenticity of the message from SAMBRO is retained.
Roles and Responsibilities Delegation
DHM is responsible for meteorological and hydrological services. Heavy Rain, River Floods, Landslides, Earthquakes, and Drought are the most dangerous natural threats the Nation is susceptible to.
A meeting with top-level personnel preferably with Director General (DG) should be held. The meeting should decide on various roles and responsibilities within the DHM that includes the Administration, Alert Editor, Alert Approver etc. among others. If DHM is considering on bringing other stakeholders like NEOC or others, they should also conduct a meeting and decide on their roles and responsibilities.
Designing the Template
The template should be set up for each warning level for each event type (e.g. Flood Bulletin, Flood Rising, Flood Normal etc.). The template will also include the information in both English and Nepali language, includes the headline, description, instruction etc. in both language.
DHM mandated services include detection, monitoring, prediction and notification (or alerting). The notifications are in the form of warnings, bulletins, and forecasts. Flood warning incorporates a color coding to indicate the <urgency>, <severity> and <certainty> with red (above danger levels), yellow (above warning levels) and green (below warning levels). These should be discussed and the data should be loaded into the system.
Predefined Alert Area
Understanding the risks is a first step towards implementing a SAMBRO for impact-based targeted alerting with response actions. Risk assessment includes hazard mapping, vulnerability assessment, and risk analysis. It is most effective in the presence of the GIS-enabled hazard, vulnerability, census data, infrastructure data, and other points of interest.
The administrative area should be prepared in proper format and loaded into the system. Similarly, based on the past risk maps, DHM can prepare predefined alerting areas so that those can be readily used while creating an alert.
Complete and Manage the Subscription
Since SAMBRO is capable of importing the CSV, the first step is to prepare a CSV file in the proper format to include all the officials who need an account in the system. Then after importing the users, the subscription list needs to be completed by DHM. The aim is to make the warning notification easier and reliable to use. Preparing different first responders group to warn about the private messages are also essential.
Acquiring Email Host
One of the problems with the email host server is that it gets blacklisted most of the time if not set up properly. DHM should decide on which email relay server they want to use: the mail server of the DHM or the one with Sahana. Whichever the server is used, it should be set up with much care. If not, the emails may end up in Spam or not delivered at all.
Acquiring SMS Gateway
Nepal Telecom (NTC) and Ncell are the major Telcos in Nepal. NTC has set up a small application that enables DHM to send SMS. DHM uses NTC and Ncell sim card to transmit data from their data collection station to the server. DHM should be proactive in leading the discussion with NTC/Ncell regarding obtaining the SMS gateway. There is two possibility of sending SMS in collaboration with NTC/Ncell. If the Telco provides the Restful SMS API, that can be used directly into the system. Or they can query through the RSS Feed of the DHM and send SMS to the stakeholders within the segment and take the SMS as the body.
There are three modes that the DHM channels their alerts and warnings. Email bulletins posted on their website and Facebook are the new age technology adopted to publicly share. TV, Radio, and Newspaper, traditional media, are another source for informing the public. The daily weather and bi-weekly outlook bulletins are produced and disseminated through the websites as well as through the TV and Radio news programs. At least 2 times per day or up to 3-4 times per day with special bulletins are issued during an emergency by DHM. Similarly, people can call DHM Kathmandu Toll free phone numbers to receive news of the weather bulletins.
The Email, SMS, Twitter, and Facebook are already supported by the system in an automated way. If the Restful API for the system is provided, DHM’s alert can also be posted on their website.