CONCEPCION, Iloilo—Residents of the island barangay of Tambaliza in Concepcion are no strangers to the difficulties brought about by typhoons and storm surges.
Realizing the importance of being prepared for these situations, the residents joined a hazard simulation drill organized by Adventist Development and Relief Agency and various disaster risk reduction and management offices in Iloilo in partnership with PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications.
The drill, which simulated a typhoon situation, began with the barangay officials receiving the weather bulletin from the local DRRM officer via Smart Infocast.
Smart turned over the Infocast system to ADRA in 2017 for the use of Ajuy, Concepcion, and Estancia municipalities. It is a short message service broadcast platform that enables the DRRM officers to send news updates, weather bulletins, and other critical information to barangay officials and responders through text message. These officials, in turn, can share the information with the residents to give them time to prepare and evacuate as needed.
ADRA, the global humanitarian organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has been helping to improve the preparedness efforts and economic well-being of residents in these Iloilo towns in the wake of Super typhoon “Yolanda.”
“Here in Iloilo, we’ve seen it’s possible to tap companies like Smart to help build the resilience of these island communities. This project may not be that big, but we’ve got multi-stakeholder support, from the provincial and municipal government to the academe and corporate organizations,” said ADRA DRR officer Elias Salazar.
“Part of our advocacy is to use technology for the benefit of communities. Smart Infocast, which can send text messages to as many as thousands of mobile users simultaneously, is one of our tools that support communities’ communications and disaster preparedness efforts,” said PLDT and Smart public affairs head Ramon R. Isberto.
During the drill, barangay officials and responders convened to assess the needs of the community. With storm warning signal No. 2 and above requiring preemptive evacuation, the barangay emergency team set up a temporary shelter at Tambaliza National High School.
Families from the island community of Sitio Botlog, who were ferried to Tambaliza, registered and went through a health checkup before being guided to their designated rooms at the evacuation center. Each classroom accommodated about 10 households, or 50 family members.
The barangay emergency team also set up other stations for the benefit of the evacuees, such as conjugal quarters, a stockpile room, and a garbage area. There were also separate bathrooms and toilets for men, women, children, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.
The drill was held to guide the residents on what to do in times of calamities. With the help of information sent through Smart Infocast, barangay officials and responders were able to mobilize emergency teams for faster response and evacuation.
Smart’s #SafePH advocacy aims to help build resilient communities and reduce disaster-related casualties through technology. It has developed other platforms and activities under this initiative, such as such as the Emergency Cell Broadcast System (ECBS); the Batingaw emergency app; and the TNT Tropang Ready youth readiness caravans, among other programs.