Reactive instead of proactive
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - June 13, 2018 - 12:00am

When tropical storm “Domeng” first entered the Philippines as a low pressure area last June 5, it poured heavy rains in our country. There was apparently so much volume of rain “Domeng” brought in that our weather bureau declared last Friday the start of the rainy season in our country. As earlier tracked by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), “Domeng” exited the country Sunday morning.

What we in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon are experiencing is the effect of the southwest monsoon that has been causing off-and-on rains. Consequently, low-lying areas in Metro Manila, worsened by accumulated volumes of trash at esteros, have been experiencing floods.

 At the height of its unleashing torrents of rainwater as “Domeng” exits the country, the unusual sound or tone of alarm from my i-Phones placed at bedside desk roused me from sleep. I have two mobile phones, one for my Smart service and the other for Globe. One after the other, the two phones went into frenzied alarm several times in the wee hours of Sunday.

The emergency-sounding alarms were turned on by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). The first message from the NDRRMC was sent to my Smart phone at 1:16 a.m. stating: “RED: Matinding pag-ulan sa Metro Manila dulot ng HABAGAT na pinalakas ng TS DOMENG, asahan ang matinding pagbaha at landslide. Maging alerto at handa.”

Then, the NDRRMC sent another text warning to my Smart at 2:41 a.m. “ORANGE: Matinding pag-ulan sa Rizal, Zambales, Cavite dulot ng HABAGAT sa pinalakas ng TS DOMENG, asahan ang pagbaha at landslide. Maging alerto at handa.”

The same text alerts were sent to my Globe phone with the red warning at 1:28 a.m. A red warning was sent to my Globe at 1:14 p.m.

The color-coded danger alerts of the NDRRMC are based on the severity of the developing weather conditions as monitored by Pagasa.

Yellow means “caution.” The public is advised to monitor the news for further updates. “Yellow warning” represents 7.5-15 millimeter (mm) rain in an hour which could also cause flooding.

Red – which in traffic lights means “stop” – also mean the same thing. People are advised to stop whatever they are doing and heed the Pagasa warning that a locality is under a “red warning.” Prepare to evacuate, if necessary. 

The “orange signal” means rain is intense or, in technical terms, around 15 to 30 mm of rain has been observed in the past hour and is expected to continue at this level in the next two hours. People are advised to be alert for possible evacuation because flood may be a definite threat.

The two telcos have been sending such weather alerts in compliance with Republic Act (RA) 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act. RA 10639, signed on June 20, 2014, requires mobile service providers to send NDRRMC weather alerts to their respective subscribers. In this way, people will be alerted and given a headstart to prepare against looming weather-related dangers or disasters and thereby reduce risks of calamities and save lives.

So actually, the text warnings from the NDRRMC are nothing new. But what seemed to be different about their latest weather alert warnings are the new high-pitched emergency text message tones. The alert warning sound could really shake you out of deep slumber during a rainy cold weather like the one I was having last Sunday.

I just hope the same warning alerts of the NDRRMC are likewise sent out to pre-paid subscribers of both telcos. And hopefully, the NDRRMC warning alerts could be sent out and could reach their subscribers, especially those really living in danger areas in far-flung places in our country.

On other technology-driven alerts, our own law enforcement authorities like the Philippine National Police (PNP) rely much in closed-circuit television (CCTV) to help solve crimes. The CCTV is a TV system in which signals are not publicly distributed but are monitored – primarily for surveillance and security purposes. Private establishments and government offices all over the country and many barangays, especially in Metro Manila, have CCTVs installed in their offices, buildings, communities and residential houses.

Many of the crimes committed and accidents being reported by media, especially by TV networks, are mostly those caught on CCTV. In Metro Manila, the CCTVs have also proven effective in recording traffic violations under the “no-contact” policy being implemented by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). Proof of which are my personal experiences when I was twice issued traffic violation citations as caught on CCTV.

The idea of CCTV is to help deter or discourage the commission of crimes or at least catch these criminals in flagrante. Caught in the act, so to speak. During our Kapihan sa Manila Bay last May 30, I asked PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde how the CCTV effectively helps our law enforcers do their jobs. Even aided by CCTV, the newly appointed PNP chief clarified, the better way to gauge is how fast or how quick is the response time of our policemen to calls for help.

When he earlier did a test on police response on a reported crime in Marikina City, Albayalde disclosed, he placed a supposed call for police assistance around 3 a.m. which is a period where there is supposed to be no traffic yet on the road. Albayalde candidly admitted being dissatisfied that the Marikina police station nearest to the supposed crime scene arrived seven minutes after the report was sent.

Ideally, the police response time should be three minutes after the call for help or crime report comes in, Gen. Albayalde cited.

If these CCTVs are that efficient to catch traffic violations and even help solve crimes, it behooves us, however, to think why can’t they instead be used to interdict the crime while in progress or still taking place? How these CCTVs are being used, unfortunately, has been making our law enforcers reactive than pro-active in catching criminals before they escape.

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