Institutionalizing NOAH in DRRM
As a way for the government to respond more effectively in times of disaster, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) devised an online resource center that will help Filipinos prepare in a more timely manner. This was when DOST Project NOAH was operationalized. In rolling out this project, DOST-NOAH worked closely with PAGASA or the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
NOAH was an online portal that provided live and updated information to users with regards to the weather conditions happening in the Philippines. It was a one-stop shop for anyone who wanted to monitor and assess different hazards that put Filipino citizens at risk. This also became an integral part in the disaster risk reduction and managements units of each local government unit (LGU) as NOAH was able to provide near real-time meteorological information in any area in the Philippines to empower Filipinos.
The program was officially launched in 2012 in Marikina and President Aquino took part in unveiling this new technology. It was a response to the “bahala na” mentality of Filipinos when it came to disasters. He noted that almost 1.7 million families have already been affected by an average of 20 typhoons that hit the country every year. He mentioned a report from the NDRRMC that damages from typhoons have already spiked to PhP160 billion.
Putting up NOAH was a massive effort. Dr Mahar Francisco Lagmay, who is considered to be one of Asia’s top scientists, sits as the Executive Director. The Program is supported by more than 43 participating agencies and organizations. NOAH’s data sources are being culled from 4 agencies in 3 partner countries: United Kingdom, United States and Japan. The list is growing because collaboration to generate the best tools and understanding to mitigate hazard impacts is the model NOAH pursues.
NOAH also has a mobile app, on Android and iOS, which was put together in collaboration by different individuals representing different companies and sectors. This includes SMART Communications, Ateneo de Manila, ABS-CBN, and Pointwest Technologies.
NOAH is for everyone through its open source data
NOAH strongly supports and advocates open source data as well, given that open source data and software are major building blocks of the project. Thus, the outputs of the project are also open source and free for the public to use at any time. All information on the website (i.e., near-real time weather data, hazard maps, and impact assessment tools) are available to the public at their convenience. This ensures that anyone can use these important features and outputs and can build on them for further use in DRRM efforts. NOAH believes in giving its outputs and information freely to the Filipinos since they have already paid for its completion through their taxes.
There are also NOAH Mirror websites hosted by the following organizations:
- University of the Philippines, Diliman
- GMA Network
- Globe Telecommunications
- Voyager Innovations
For a complete list of partners, visit the NOAH website here.
World Class Weather Forecasting
With so much effort and talent going into NOAH, warnings against imminent hazards are now more accurate and data-driven. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRRM) practioners rely on less guesswork as NOAH aggregates all the weather and hazards information into one informational database. At the same time, citizens can also prepare for upcoming typhoons and other hazards and even contribute data as well. This is largely because NOAH is using an open source platform.
PhilStar journalist Elfren Cruz applauded NOAH saying in one of his columns, “It may not sound glamorous, but PROJECT NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) is proving to be one of the most innovative projects in the Philippine preparation for natural calamities.” He further added that it helps create a ‘culture of preparedness’ amongst Filipinos especially when it comes to responding to calamities.
Other countries have seen the gains of NOAH and are now using it as a benchmark in creating their own DRRM system. It has been given several recognitions in the past few years as a modern application that provides useful information in disaster risk reduction and management. Below are some snippets noting the awards it has received:
“The Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) flagship program for disaster risk reduction and mitigation called Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards or Project NOAH once again showed its multi-faceted benefits when its mobile app ARKO recently grabbed an award conferred only to a select few by the World Summit Awards Mobile Content 2014 (WSA Mobile).” – Based on DOST press release
“Another milestone for a distinguished Filipino scientist was achieved by being recognized as the 2015 Plinius Medallist awardee by the prominent European Geosciences Union (EGU), the first Asian winner to be conferred with the medal.
“Dr. Alfredo Mahar Francisco A. Lagmay, Executive Director of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), once again proved that the country’s current practice in disaster risk reduction (DRR) is of international standards as he received the 2015 Plinius Medal from the EGU. He received the medal last April 15, 2015 in Vienna Austria.” -Based on DOST press release
Project NOAH won the USAID and FHI360 Impact Demonstration Award - Promising Examples of what’s working in the Harnessing the USAID Harnessing the Data Revolution for Resilience Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.
“The International Data Corporation (IDC) named the Philippine’s own Clark Green City and Project Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) as finalists in the Smart City Asia Pacific Awards (SCAPA) 2016.” – Based on GMA Network article on Smart City Asia Pacific Awards
From simple beginnings back in 2011, NOAH has done a lot in its goal of preparing the nation in times of disasters. But it takes more than the technology to make a nation resilient and prepared. In a Rappler interview with Mahar Lagmay back in 2012, he said, “We need everyone to participate – we need the private sector, we need the civil society organizations, we need the media, we need the government institutions, we need the communities, we need the LGUs, we need the individuals to participate…”
The communal effort that NOAH brings is perhaps the underlying factor that makes it truly effective. And hopefully, this will flow through with the next administration.