Facebook opens Disaster Maps for foundations involved in Taal operations
MANILA, Philippines – Social media giant Facebook has opened its Disaster Maps for foundations who are conducting relief and rescue operations in areas affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.
Information from Facebook showed that the maps were used by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to track down Batangas and Cavite residents displaced by the heavy ashfall — families who eventually fled to evacuation centers.
“In response to the Taal volcano eruption, Facebook made Disaster Maps available to the Philippine Red Cross to support evacuation and relief operations,” Facebook said in a statement on Thursday.
“PRC deployed over 800 Red Cross personnel, and opened evacuation centers to support displaced communities in 13 towns near the volcano,” they added.
According to the social media company, Disaster Maps would help responders to identify which areas need help, as it sources information from Facebook users in the area concerned — in this case, evacuation centers in Batangas and Cavite towns.
“Near real-time information compiled by Facebook’s Disaster Maps helps fill information gaps by providing relief organizations with aggregated, de-identified data gathered from people using Facebook on their mobile phones in areas affected by natural disasters,” Facebook explained.
“This information helps paint a more complete picture of where affected people are located so that resources like food, water, and medical supplies can be efficiently distributed where they are needed most,” they added.
The program has been used in other disasters, like the onslaught of Typhoon Tisoy in the Bicol Region and the series of earthquakes in Puerto Rico starting last December.
“These maps allow responders to quickly get a read on how people are actually behaving during a specific emergency, rather than making assumptions or predicting behaviors based on past events,” the social media site noted.
PRC Head of Operations Center May Layugan attested to the Disaster Maps’ contributions, saying that it helped them to prioritize the areas that need help.
“In times of calamity, the biggest challenge we face is determining the worst affected areas where we are most needed. Facebook Disaster Maps show us anonymized data on movements of people connected to Facebook and help us identify which areas have no internet connection or electricity,” Layugan said.
“Based on this data, we are able to verify reports we get from our community-based volunteers and prioritize where to deploy our resources and improve the efficiency of our response,” Laguyan added.
Reports from Batangas’ Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said that over 32,000 families have been displaced due to the volcanic eruption last January 12, which send ashfall as far as Metro Manila and Central Luzon.
As of now, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has downgraded the alert warnings from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3, after the volcanic activity has lessened in the past weeks.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he is withdrawing police officers stationed in Taal-affected areas to allow residents to come home.
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