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Public-private partnership tapped for flood warning system in Davao City

DAVAO CITY, July 29 – The partnership between the Davao City government, the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) and Smart Communications, Inc. (SMART) led to the setting up of a weather and flood alert system as part of the city's disaster preparedness program.

The warning system was launched during the inauguration of the Public Safety Command Center (PSSC) attended by Davao City Mayo Sara Duterte-Carpio, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) deputy administrator Susan Espinueva, national and local government officials and other officials from the private sector.

In a briefing, it was explained that the system consisted of the automated weather station (AWS), river level gauge, personal tracker, land and sea tracking devices which were fabricated and programmed by ADDU engineering faculty and students.

The Ateneo students composed of Charisse Olanoguez, Ann Marie Roselle Balinas and Flora May dela Cruz with Engr. Marloue O. Pidor made the concept and design and was funded by SMART. These students created an upgraded version of the search and rescue management system which placed second during the 2008 SWEEP Innovation Awards organized by SMART.

SWEEP or Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program is an educational initiative of telecommunications firm of which ADDU is a partner-school.

Data generated by these devices once deployed will be transmitted via SMART's cellular network to a website which can be accessed by the PSCC.

PCSS head Mario Verner Sebial Monsanto said in cases where information would indicate the rise of water from where the gauges were deployed. This will be communicated immediately to the responders and to concerned officials and leaders.

He said SMART also donated 20 manual rain gauges and these units are deployed in the city's flood-prone barangays. The barangay captains will then designate a point person to monitor these rain gauges everyday to ensure that the units are working and safe.

According to Mon Isberto, head of public affairs group of SMART he said that the AWS form the core of an early warning system for the city which has been experiencing floods in some of its districts in recent years.

Aside from the unit located within the Central 911 Compound, three more AWS will soon be deployed in SMART's relay station in San Fernando, Bukidnon and cell sites in Marilog and Buda.

He said the reason they came in to support the project is because it is an idea that is demand driven as suggested by the Davao City officials. There is also a need since Davao City is experiencing flooding even when there is no rain and Davao City is the only city in the country that has the capability for now.

"It is unique to Davao and no other local government unit has that capability," he said.

Right now, he said they are still developing the concept and as to whether it is the ideal one because we still have to prove it.

"But the longer you do it, the more effective it becomes. And with more data collected you can already see relationships on how long and how big the water rises and its extent as to areas," he said.

He said when we will succeed with this, and then we can in the future share it with other local government units although he said they have already about 3 or 4 local government units (LGUs) already in mind.

The Ateneo group calibrated their AWS based on World Meteorological Organization (WMO) standards under the guidance of weather specialists from PAGASA. The group underwent a week-long immersion program with the state weather bureau.

Complementary to the AWS is river monitoring instrument also developed by the engineering students and these will be set up along Bantol and Lacson Rivers and on the bridges of Suwawan and Waan, all in Davao City.

By observing both rainfall and river level information, the Davao's Rescue 911 Service will be able to provide timely flood warning.

The original design of the disaster alert system to be implemented by Davao City where officials can better track sea vessels during emergencies was also expanded to track land vehicles where the ADDU group worked closely with Rescue 911, Davao City's 24-hour emergency response team, and the Davao Gulf Management Council and the Philippine Coastguard in testing the sea and land-based prototypes.

Two sea tracking devices will be issued to the Coast Guard while two land vehicle tracking device will be assigned to Rescue 911 for use in their ambulance and mobile patrol vehicle. A personal tracker has also been designed to be worn on the vest of Rescue 911 personnel. (PNA) LAP/Digna D. Banzon/lvp

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