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Crisis Mapping Becomes De Rigueur Tropical Storm Response in Philippines

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, August 21 2013

Screenshot of the Google map of the three day accumulated rainfall

When the Philippines suffered severe flooding last August, crisis responders used Twitter hashtags and a Google Doc to track calls for help and successful rescues. This year, in the wake of Tropical Storm Maring, Filipinos are using an official portal, through which anyone can submit a rescue request online or by text message which is then mapped. The same hashtags active last year are organizing the conversation this year, too: #rescuePH, #floodPH, #reliefPH and, in the event of a successful rescue, #SafeNow.

The rescue requests are all labeled urgent rescue, rescued or help is on the way. Sample resquests:

1 person to rescue. He's been submerged in the flood for 3 days now. He now has fever, dizzy, nauseaus, vomiting and has lbm. He's been having clear odorless discharge.
by: Malyn Layacan

citizens in need of food, water, blanket waiting on rooftops
by: @jmieofficial

reported #SafeNow via SMS on Aug. 21, 2013 10:54 am
by: via SMS

Google has also stepped up with its own crisis response map for tropical storm Maring, which maps shelters and declared state of calamity, and can show three day accumulated rainfall, 24-hour accumulated rainfall and an experimental 24-hour flood forecast.

To bring a little order to the crowdsourcing efforts, Rosaria Juan (@juanxi) created a Storify with instructions on how to use the disaster specific hashtags.

For your info:
#rescuePH for rescue requests -- those who are stranded, who need help evacuating, severely flooded areas
#‎SAFENOW for those who have been rescued (VERY IMPORTANT! This helps us scratch areas off the list and move on to the others)
#‎reliefPH for locations of evacuation centers, requests for aid and food of those who were affected by the floods.
#‎floodsPH for updates on the flooding situation

Filipinos have also shared photos and videos of the flood on Instagram and Twitter. The death toll is rising, up to 15 on August 21 according to the UN's IRIN News, and hundreds of thousands have been evacuated or forced out of their homes by the rising water.

Some have said Tropical Storm Maring, which dumped the total average August rainfall (475.4mm = approximately 18.5 inches) on the country in a single day is reminiscent of Tropical Storm Ketsana, which flooded 80 percent of the capital in 2009 and caused the death of more than 460 people. However, most agree that the government is better prepared now, perhaps in part to their efforts online.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.