[5 June 2014] MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Science and Technology will share lessons on innovations in disaster risk reduction and management, including its new agenda for including “predictive damage” and “business continuity” as part of the country’s pro-active disaster preparedness agenda.

DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo first announced the two concepts during the opening plenary session of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference (2014) hosted by the Philippines at the Diamond Hotel on 5th June 2014, Thursday.

The recent onslaught of typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) called for new ways on the practice of disaster risk reduction and management and its inclusion as priority in the country’s development agenda.

“Recent severe weather events clearly showed that mega disasters are the new challenge we have to face. And we cannot be caught flat-footed or ill-prepared because doing so costs us more,” noted DOST Sec. Montejo.

Before Haiyan, mega disasters in Asia included the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia.

“Advanced information on impending disasters derived through the application of science and cutting-edge technologies enables vigilant local governments and the public to take early action and in turn, save lives,” he added.

In the Philippines, the use of science-based weather information was made possible by DOST’s modernization project, which included flagship programs such as the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH), which offers an online platform to monitor typhoons and floods based on real-time data feeds from 1,000 rain and water level sensors nationwide and the internationally renowned national 3D mapping project called Disaster Risk Assessment, Exposure and Mitigation-Light Ranging and Detection Technology (DREAM-LiDAR). The latter won the prestigious Geospatial World Excellence in Policy Implementation Award for 2014 awarded by the Geospatial World Forum last May in Geneva.

Both projects were launched under the direction of the Aquino administration to promote a more proactive stance on disaster management with the delivery of science-based information to local communities and national disaster managers and the vigilance of leaders and first responders to act accordingly based on the information showed that it can be possible to achieve zero casualties and reduce risks and damages due to flooding, and disasters related to severe weather events.

He cited local champions in the country that benefited from the use of Project NOAH and 3D map models of the DREAM Project such as Marikina City, which enforced evacuation hours ahead of the 2012 and 2013 Habagat (Southwest Monsoon) Flood events, which registered Ondoy-like flood levels. In 2009, the same city in the metro was submerged in floods after Ketsana (Ondoy) dumped a month’s worth of rain—about 300mm—in a span of only six hours.

Predictive damage and business continuity
Since the commencement of the Aquino administration’s term in 2009, the DOST has undergone major improvements to provide quality, accurate, location-specific, and timely information based on science so local leaders and communities may know how to best deal with an impending disaster. To date, DOST has nearly completed the mapping of two-thirds of the 18 major river systems of the country, which included Marikina River and Cagayan River, both of which overflowed and flooded nearby communities during the typhoon season.

The DOST plays a crucial role in terms of providing information related to weather and geological hazards in the Philippines, mainly through its agencies Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), respectively.

Pushing further the envelope for better disaster preparedness, DOST is introducing the concept of “predictive damage” and “business continuity.”

Predictive damage, noted Sec. Montejo, “is the capability of being able to simulate and model severe weather events and the amount or extent of damage that they would cause to the areas affected.”

Probability-based behavioral damage models for various types of infrastructure and natural assets of concern can be developed by evaluating and analyzing historical data on damage caused by previous severe weather events. These models then used in conjunction with improving weather forecast methodologies would allow the prediction of probable damage, thus allowing pro-active disaster preparedness and response.

“This approach is not only applicable for response or near-term planning but may also be used for a medium- and long- term disaster risk reduction program,” he added.

On the other hand, “business continuity is the capability to restore, within a prescribed period, vital services both public and private after a severe weather event. These vital services include power, communications, transport, food and drinking water, heath, security, banking and commerce, among others.”

Vital services can be restored after 12, 24 or 48 hours or more depending on the priority of a service. The DOST proposed that a committed “business continuity” timetable for vital services be made the goal for all disaster preparedness and response programs.

The predictive damage will serve as the starting point for analyzing the strength and vulnerabilities of critical assets and infrastructure against severe weather scenarios modeled using the maps generated by DOST’s projects. This will allow planners to better understand areas for improvement, retrofitting, and can even go as far as provisioning of backup services for disaster preparedness and response.

Other plenary speakers in the event include Philippine cabinet officials and leaders of international organizations on DRRM, such as Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Senator Loren Legarda, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Kristalina Georgieva, and United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Head Margareta Wahlstrom.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is the lead coordinator for the conference in partnership with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

The Philippines jointly organized the ASEM Manila Conference 2014 with Japan, Switzerland, and the European Union, together with sponsorship of Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Norway, Spain, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. (S&T Media Service)

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