Project NOAH launches WebSAFE

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2015 10:33 PM

MANILA - Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards), which revolutionized the way the Philippines responds to hazards and weather disturbances, has launched new features in its website that can now give the public real-time information on specific hazards that they may face in their own streets and barangays.

Apart from having a new and more user-friendly interface, Project NOAH version 2 boasts of four major updates, the most significant of which is the application called WebSAFE.

Called an "impact scenario tool," it takes a projected hazard in a particular area, like a flood, for example, and calculates the possible impact of it, like how many people will be affected, how many might need to be evacuated, and how many of these affected persons are male, female, youth, or elderly.

Given these figures, a second tab called Needs will project how many sacks of rice, liters of water, toilets, and family kits will be needed.

A third tab in WebSAFE is allotted for the local government units (LGUs) affected. Called Check Listo, it shows the checklist of things an LGU should do to prepare for and respond to the projected hazard.

This is based on the Listo checklist already established by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), and shows courses of action upon alert, within 48 hours, during, and after the hazard comes.

A fourth tab called Census Data reveals other useful information, like population, what sources of energy are used in the particular area, what the literacy rate is, and the status of its water and sanitation.

Project NOAH now also has colored, clickable icons for floods, landslides, and storm surges, so that users can now easily see information that is focused on particular hazards.

Users who want to check if a particular area is flood-prone can click on the Floods icon, where they will be asked to input the region, province, and municipality of the place they want to see.

Once the information is complete, a map will appear showing areas and streets that will be flooded in the event of significant rainfall, with predicted depths shown in different colors and identified as high, medium, and low.

A legend using the silhouette of Manny Pacquiao will show how deep the color-coded depths are in relation to the height of the average Filipino, in order for people to be able to imagine if the floods described will be up the knee, the chest, or higher than a person's head.

The Project NOAH team has plotted out flood maps covering one-thirds of the country, and plan to finish the mapping by 2016.

Clicking on the Landslides icon will offer the user the same drop down menu for them to select the area they want to check for probability of landslides.

Areas in yellow and red are prone to landslides, while the colorless areas are deemed safe to live or evacuate to.

Project NOAH Executive Director Mahar Lagmay said they tried their best to make the maps easy to understand. "Although it's a complex problem requiring complex solutions, we try to make it as simple as possible. Go to the non-colored areas when there is a warning," he said.

The Project NOAH team has completed plotting landslide maps of the entire country, and has also published volumes of these maps for future distribution to each barangay in the Philippines, paying particular attention to those with no Internet access.

The same drop down menu is available under the Storm surge icon as well. 100% of the country's coastlines have already been mapped out, and users can also select a Yolanda storm surge map for them to see the worst-case scenarios in their areas.

Despite plotting out where the hazards lie, Lagmay said they are actually more interested in showing the people where they will be safe in times of disasters.

"We're not interested ultimately in the hazards. We're interested in finding the safe and suitable areas," said Lagmay.

The Project NOAH team has also constructed a 3D map for use by the NDRRMC that shows very detailed hazard projections from the mountains, coastlines, and cities, even showing the creeks that often inundate during heavy rainfall.

Lagmay said this new technology is made, developed, and used by Filipinos, and he believes the Philippines is the only country to have successfully created such useful technology in terms of disasters.

Project NOAH also announced several mobile apps that the public may use conveniently. There is ARKO, which shows the flood maps, Raincheck that gives weather updates, and Flood Patrol, a crowdsource app that allows user to identify and plot out flooded areas on a map, which will then be verified and put out as warnings to other people on the road.