Two weeks after the ‘CAP on a Map‘ project kick-off workshop, the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology got busy responding to the massive floods –
“Heavy seasonal rains caused flooding in Rakhine State and other parts of the country at the end of June. At the beginning of July, the Relief and Resettlement Department (RRD) in Nay Pyi Taw reported that close to 14,800 people had been affected by floods throughout the country, with over 13,000 of those affected in Rakhine State.” – Reliefweb Report, Myanmar: Floods and Landslide, June 2015.
The Nation continues to battle with hazard events caused by severe weather events originating from the western Bay of Bengal and the northeastern Chinese Mountains. The CAP on a Map project is designed to improve the institutional responsiveness to all-hazards. The project will train Myanmar alerting and emergency management authorities on the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) interoperable content standard and the Sahana Alerting and Messaging Broker (SAMBRO). The kick-off workshop, that was hosted by DMH at their premises, 15 June 2015, was to introduce the concepts and determine the participating Organizations.
As part of the information stocktaking activity, AIT and SSF team members traveled to Tatkon, approximately 65 Km from the Naypyitaw capitol city. We observed many farming community to be sparsely scattered and to be disconnected from the main electric power grid. They use oil lamps and some have small solar panels (5 bulb systems). DMH replies on TV and Radio to warn the public of severe weather events and provide situational reports. However, none of them without main grid consistent power would be able to operate a Television set.
Workshop participants also echoed the challenges with the coverage of electricity and its unreliability. A radio powered by batteries is the only alternative to receiving weather bulletins and special weather broadcasts from the Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV). Relatively low powered mobile phones present to be a lucrative and inclusive solution to complement MRTV. LIRNEasia finds show 99% of the representative survey sample to carry a mobile phone.
Telecommunications are not yet or very little is adopted in pubic alerting. Telecommunications Service Providers (TSPs) would bill DMH for using their services such as with disseminating Short Message Service (SMS) or Cell Broadcast (CB) text-messages. A recommendation was for DMH to request, as part of a National policy in support of the emergency communications plan and licensing agreement or as part of the TSP Corporate Social Responsibilty, to provide a limited quantity of bulk SMS and possibly CB facilities for disseminating timely warnings.
Participants engaged in several group exercises. These discussions revealed language and digital literacy to be weak factors that would require special attention. People can read and write but lack knowledge in interpreting warning messages or scientific terminology. SAMBRO, with the underlying CAP standard and procedures, would address all those factors. CAP is designed for all-hazard all-media dissemination with a structure to accommodate multiple languages. Moreover, it removes ambiguity with consistent and complete messages that would provide instructions for laymen to understand.