Quik Data: Community-Based Disaster Reporting App by Ilocos Center for Research, Empowerment and Development (ICRED)

Brgy Isic-isic, Vintar, Ilocos Norte

Anna Zofia Leal, Marissa Pugyao, Marc Rusly Torralba, & Jose Dumalan

Our concept, Quik Data, has two components - (1) CommunityBased Disaster Management and (2) the Quik Data mobile app. The CBDM will train community members on disaster risk management and help them create their own Community Disaster Preparedness Plans. This will ensure that they are capacitated to clearly and quickly communicate what support they need when a disaster strikes. The Quik Data app will serve as the reporting tool during calamities where the community can send their situation so the response will be appropriate to their needs. The app has been tested by our community partner and their feedback was crucial in the development of its design.

To enable an empowered people and disaster resilient communities in the Ilocos Region.

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Disaster resilience can only be achieved if the most vulnerable sectors are empowered and able to communicate with other stakeholders. Through your financial and logistical support, we can reach more communities especially the most vulnerable and far-flung areas and give them the skills and tools they need to be able to mitigate, prepare for and respond to disaster. Together, we can help build a nation of truly resilient people and communities.

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DISASTER REPORTING BY THE COMMUNITY VIA AN APP- IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE?

From the months of January to May, the mountain barangay of Isicisic in Vintar, Ilocos Norte experiences dry spell or drought. This was evident during the Inception Workshop and Project Orientation held in April 2018 when the ICRED and Tuklas Northern Luzon teams witnessed the massive drying out of the grasslands, forests and agricultural fields in the area.

The roads leading to the remote community were impassable several times since then due to incessant rains from the Habagat and twin supertyphoons Ompong (Mangkhut) and Rosita (Yutu). Landslides were recorded along the high ravines that characterize the dirt roads for nearly five kilometers. It is said that a jeep had already fallen off the cliff some years ago, killing several of its passengers.

“Landslides are almost certain here,” says barangay chair Rolly Nacuray. “When there is heavy rain, a landslide will surely occur somewhere in our barangay.

The barangay proper and several adjacent sitios of Isic-isic were isolated after the eye of Typhoon Mangkhut passed over in September 2018. The hanging bridge that connected them to the outside world was torn off by high winds and the concrete spillway was overrun by flash floods. As with Typhoon Lawin (Haima) in 2016, rice fields were flattened and destroyed nearly 100% of the crops.

What was different this time around was that in 2016, the barangay had to wait for over a week for humanitarian workers to get to their barangay. Aside from not having telecom signal for a couple of days, there was no one trained to conduct damage and needs assessment.

“When ICRED was doing baseline data gathering, we found out that there was no functioning BDRRMC in Isic-isic, though Kap Rolly stands as the BDRRM officer by default,” says Executive Director Anna Leal.

ICRED stands for Ilocos Center for Research, Empowerment and Development. It was established in 2009 and has since conducted emergency response and recovery projects, research and advocacy and community training and organizing. Anna has been its lead for the past 6 years. She shares that the idea for Quik Data, a disaster reporting utility app, was born out of the difficulties of gathering data for damage and needs reporting of affected upland communities. As in the case of Isic-isic, ICRED staff could not contact or visit communities isolated by landslides and floods.

“We were already using the DNCA, or Damage, Needs, Capacities Assessment form recommended by our network, CDRN, or Citizens’ Disaster Response Network. The entire form consisted of 11 pages of data entry, detailing damages to life and limb, shelter, critical barangay physical and social infrastructure, health and medical needs, gender and human rights concerns, and loss of livelihood,” Anna shares.

The DNCA is not expected to be completed immediately; the responding humanitarian team must send what data they gather as is only needed for immediate relief. Other data that could translate to further aid in recovery and rehabilitation efforts may be gathered later.

But even so, in ICRED’s experience, with the inability to access remote communities, even data for relief is difficult to obtain, collate, and send
to potential donors. During the Tuklas information session and subsequent writeshop in October and November 2017, ICRED staff drew up the proposal to develop the DNCA form into an app for easier and faster communication
by community members themselves, similar to Waze, where app users submit data that will be made available to all other app users. However, recognizing that the app will just be a more techy way to do DNCA unless the community recognizes its importance, the team proposed to conduct a complete training program in community-based disaster management (CBDM) alongside app prototyping and testing.

PROTOTYPING AND TESTING

In May 2018, ICRED conducted a Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) survey and a Household Disaster Readiness survey to gauge the DRRM awareness level of community members. Results showed that while many are aware of the disaster risks and hazards that the barangay faces, they do not know of any counter disaster plan or early warning system, much less an emergency hotline number that they can call.

Upon discussing these results with the barangay officials, the latter admitted that they only put out information and education materials from the Municipal DRRM Office (tarps) but have not really gotten to barangay-specific hazard mapping and counter-disaster planning. They welcomed the CBDM trainings, with many of the councilors subsequently attending them, including the next barangay chair Rolly Nacuray.

To ensure community representation, the ICRED team invited the IPMR (Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative) in the barangay council, Tatay Jose Dumalan as member of the innovation team. Prototyping started with a review of the DNCA with the app developers and legwork for the community disaster management orientation was conducted by ICRED’s community organizers.

Many of the participants to the community trainings were married women with young children. In Isic-isic the rice fields were located in a nearby plateau several kilometers from their houses. Wives work with their husbands in the fields, though those with young children stay at home. Others like Lornalynne Madamba work as barangay health workers, road sweepers, and clerks or sales personnel in Vintar town proper.

Lornalynne attended all of the trainings and was one of those who worked on the barangay hazard map during the community risk assessment. Because of her enthusiastic participation, she was chosen as one of the testers for the alpha and beta testing of Quik Data in August and November respectively.

“Before this project came along, I never really thought I would learn how to plan for a disaster. I looked up to the ICRED staff but never imagined that I can also do the things that they do,” Lorna reveals during her interview after the beta testing and community-led emergency drill.

The drill was attended by over two hundred people, an unprecedented number for any community activity led by the barangay. Two drills were conducted, one in the Isic-isic proper and another in outlying sitio Dasar, which is too far from the barrio center and separated by large streams. The former was conducted at 4:30 AM and saw the community members bringing their bags, blankets, portable stoves and cooking pots to the designated assembly point and walking together towards the evacuation area. Many brought along their carabaos, cows, pigs, and goats. Most of the participants reported being elated at how their neighbors followed the drill instructions very seriously.

“We didn’t expect that turnout, though we did the legwork for it, because the drill was conducted right after the Undas (All Saints’ and All Souls’ days) and it was Filipino custom to visit the graveyards of loved ones,” said Marissa Pugyao, ICRED community organizer. During the Alpha Testing, the team ascertained that the community members must have to be familiarized first with the original DNCA tool. This led to the pivot of having a DNCA training with the Communications group of the newly-established Disaster Preparedness Committee. This happened in October, facilitated by the CDRC Training Department. After the Beta testing, upon community feedback and observation during the emergency drill and simulation, it was recommended that the data sections on the app be organized further into Relief, Recovery and Rehab.

APP JUST A TOOL WITHOUT THE COMMUNITY

Anna Leal was asked several times by project reviewers to compare their innovation to the very popular Kobo humanitarian response app, which also provides humanitarian actors a way to customize data collection in the field post-emergency. Her answer remains the same. “Kobo is used by humanitarian workers, mostly those in national and international NGOs. It is a highly sophisticated app. Ours is just simple. It brings the same technology to the less tech-savvy vulnerable communities and gives them the power to report how their community is and what they specifically need in terms of relief response,” she says.

She points out the advantages of community reporting: local NGOs like hers do not need to wait until they can cross swollen rivers or debris-blocked roads but instead organize their response in terms of goods and services appropriate and timely to the needs of their partner communities.

But the main success of any DRR solution relies really, according to the ICRED team lead in her Pasundayag Innovation Fair speech, the empowerment of the community to sustain their DRRM trainings and activities even after Tuklas funding for the innovation testing has ended. The app will remain just that, a tool, an icon in a mobile phone, if the community does not recognize its relevance not just to their small mountain barangay but to the rest of the country. That can only happen with a community acutely aware of its power to change the way humanitarian work is done and that they have a voice, a say, in improving DRR solutions.

“Disaster resilience does not happen with just a counter-disaster plan in the MDRRMO, BDRRMO or even the DPC. It becomes reality when a community is united and committed to help themselves and others bounce back faster and better,” Anna concludes.