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Published on Sep 21, 2017
“May pasok ba? Is it safe to go out?”
A couple of decades ago, it wasn’t easy to find the answers to these questions, often groggily asked by workers, students, and parents on stormy mornings.
AM radios and TV sets would be switched on, and everyone would wait patiently for anchors to finish their spiels, and for commercials to give way to the weather update. People would call the already clogged phone lines of schools and offices. And they would dial again and again until they’re finally able to get through.
But now, all it takes to know if it’s safe to leave the house is a few clicks on a mobile device. Here are some reliable online sources of information:
@dost_pagasa – This is the official Twitter account of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration, where regular weather updates can be found. Classes in affected areas are automatically cancelled once the following storm signals are raised:
Signal No. 1 – public and private preschool and kindergarten classes
Signal No. 2 – public and private preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and high school classes
Signal No. 3 – classes in all levels
@mmda – Those who live and work in Metro Manila may check the official Twitter account of the Metro Manila Development Authority for flood updates. They may also send a tweet to this account to make specific inquiries.
noah.dost.gov.ph – The NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) site has a map where people can see helpful information such as rainfall distribution, real-time water level of rivers, and predicted tide levels. The site has a mobile app version which can be downloaded for free.
Twitter or Facebook accounts of local government units and officials – A lot of LGUs and local officials like mayors now use their social media accounts to make important announcements such as class suspensions. Netizens are encouraged to check previous posts and follower counts to see if the accounts are legitimate or fake.
News websites and their social media accounts – Again, care should be exercised as there is a proliferation of fake news sites and accounts. It is best to stick with known news organizations such as Philippine Star and Interaksyon.
Weather monitoring apps – An example is the Batingaw app, which was developed by Smart Communications, Tudlo Innovations, and the Office of the Civil Defense-National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). This app aggregates tweets and reports from various agencies such as the NDRRMC, PAGASA, and MMDA.
Aside from making it easier for people to get information about weather disturbances, mobile technology has also helped agencies issue timely and more accurate flood forecasts and warnings. For example, DOST-PAGASA has co-located its rain gauges in selected Smart base stations. These rain gauges record the amount of rainfall in a certain area and automatically send the data via text message to a central database server, using Smart SIMs.
Sensor readings are transmitted at least four times per hour. Using data from these instruments and advanced mapping technologies, the DOST aims to develop computerized flood forecasting models that can predict the impact of rainfall on communities.
Smart also partnered with Shell Philippines and Manila Observatory for the co-location of the latter’s automated weather stations (AWS) in Shell gasoline stations in parts of Visayas and Mindanao. Smart provides the connectivity required to transmit the data from the AWS to Manila Observatory’s central database for analysis.
Data collected from these sites help the ongoing research on urban climate change and variability, which can assist LGUs in their preparations for severe weather conditions such as tropical cyclones and heavy flooding.