Pagasa reviewing employees’ policy on abandoning post
Ghio Ong, Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) is reviewing the “non-abandonment” policy for its employees following the death of a female weather observer at the height of Super Typhoon Yolanda’s onslaught last year.

“This non-abandonment policy of the office, especially in the direct path of the typhoon, is now being reviewed… so this sad incident would not happen again,” PAGASA administrator Vicente Malano told The STAR yesterday.

The policy requires employees on duty to stay at their stations at all costs, so they can deliver the actual situation in the area for weather forecasting.

When Yolanda pounded Tacloban City on Nov. 8 last year, 42-year-old Salvacion Avestruz and three other state weather forecasters refused to abandon their posts at the city station.

As a storm surge with waves seven meters high hit the city, Avestruz tried to save a weather instrument but a crashing wave swept her away, PAGASA Tacloban station chief Mario Peñaranda recounted.

“Our lady colleague died not in the comfort of her own home but rather died while in the service of our country,” Philippine Weathermen Employees Association president Ramon Agustin said in a previous statement.

Avestruz is among the missing in Tacloban City, one of the areas hardest-hit by Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to make landfall that left more than 6,000 people dead and over 1,700 missing.

Google public alerts launched

Meanwhile, Google yesterday launched the Google Public Alerts in the country to make Filipinos better informed before, during and after a typhoon.

 First launched on Oct. 30, 2012, Google Public Alerts is an online notification system that sends weather warnings and safety advisories to United States, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Mexico, and now the Philippines.

A part of the Google Crisis Response team, Google Public Alerts publishes for free content in English from its partners from each of the nine countries. In the Philippines, its partner is PAGASA.

 Meryl Stone, head of partnerships for Google Crisis Response, said all active Public Alerts are displayed on a single card or box. All active alerts can also be accessed through the Google Public Alerts page on Google Public Alerts also include tools such as People Finder – a platform for individuals and organizations to let people know they are looking for missing persons and are looking for updates – and Crisis Map – a platform which puts out critical disaster-related geographic data in context such as information on shelter and hospital locations, flood hazard zones, rainfall forecast radars and evacuation routes.

“The Philippines is one of the most typhoon-stricken countries in the world, with an average of 20 tropical storms making landfall each year. By making crisis information readily available through online tools people commonly use, we hope to help those at risk to act more promptly and mitigate disaster impact,” Stone said during yesterday’s launch at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

PAGASA said its partnership with Google in launching Google Public Alerts has enabled it to have another channel to provide Filipinos with real-time information during a typhoon.

Landrico Dalida, PAGASA’s acting administrator for operations and services, said PAGASA and Google started working on Public Alerts for the Philippines in May aimed for Nov. 8, the first anniversary of Yolanda’s landfall in the Philippines.

“We hope this would allow people to have better access to timely, accurate and reliable weather-related information,” Dalida added. – With Mike Frialde

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