Originate and Relay Alerts
Philippines Atmospheric Geophysical and Astrological Service Administration (PAGASA) and the Sahana Alerting and Messaging Broker (SAMBRO) systems’ interoperability was tested during the controlled-exercise in Manila, Philippines (11-14th July 2016).
The process was simple – valid Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) messages originating from the PAGASA “public alerting” software tool were received into the SAMBRO Alert Hub, which intern were relayed through the SAMBRO offered, SMS, Email, Web, and RSS, dissemination channels. All of this was possible because both system talk the same language, namely “CAP”.
PAGASA has developed their own software and is issuing CAP warnings for Tropical Storms and, soon to do Floods. Unfortunately, the only Organization consuming and making use of those valuable CAP messages is the Google Crisis Response Public Alerts.
Simulating National Alerting
The Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) Emergency Operation Center (EOC)is mandated with relaying all alerts to the Regional, Provincial, and Local Government Units (LGUs) as well as disseminating to the public through Television, Radio, Social Media. However, they are not making use of the power of the CAP feeds. The originating and relaying process is very much manual with manual transformations happening at each step of the relay chain connecting central authorities with grassroots communities. The process was put to test using the CAP-enabled PAGASA and the SAMBRO software tools. CAP is the heart for the two systems to interchange the life critical warning data.
Along with OCD and PAGASA there are several other Alerting and Response Authorities that form the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). They dilutes the autonomy to the Regional, Provisional and City (LGU) Councils. At present NDRRMC relies on SMS blasts, Facsimile, and Social Media to get the word to the grassroots communities through the City DRRMCs (i.e. a community-based warning approach). The tsunami siren towers, in Subic-bay are activated manually by the City DRRMC. It is merely a relay where PAGASA originated alerts are relayed through the multi-hop tree network down the Administrative chains.
Present Philipino Practice
In all events, the OCD-EOC has to use labor to transform the PAGASA alerts to a human readable form, which basically forms the bulletins they publish and disseminate through Facsimile (URL). This a laborious and time-consuming process. They, meaning the OCD EOC, would replicate the same process for all other Alerting Authorities such as with the Philippines Institute of Volcanalogy and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) originate earthquake, tsunami, volcanic, and landslide alerts.
The controlled-exercise involved testing the CAP-enabled SAMBRO browser and Mobile APP with users associated with PAGASA, PHIVOLCS, OCD, the City Councils and Barangay Emergency Response Teams (BERTs) in Manila-Bay and Subic-bay (Olanggapor). The exercises involved the users defining their goals, intents, and actions related to a certain crisis situation they derived. Thereafter, using the software tools to exercise those practices. The users were given the opportunity to criticize the usability, usefulness of the CAP-enabled systems for improving the institutional responsiveness to mitigating hazards in the Philippines.
The City Councils in Subic Bay and Manila Bay had received the FEMA Incident Command System (ICS) training. They function as Task Force Teams. The controlled-exercises examined the use of SAMBRO Mobile APP with the Task Forces Teams alerting their teams and providing regular updates. In these exercises, the intent of the Police and Fire was to support the City DRRMC with evacuating the vulnerable populations. Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) exercised alerting their teams with preparing the evacuation centers with food, shelter, and health facilities. Health Department was reacting to the situation with mobilizing their emergency response teams to support the victims as well as securing the vulnerable health facilities by moving the equipment and patients to secure locations.
These activities were part of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia and Pacific funded “CAP on a Map” project. Our gratitude to PAGASA and all Agencies for organizing and facilitating the controlled-exercises in the Philippines.