Editorial: Warning with restraint

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014


THERE will be typhoons and more typhoons. What was once the strongest typhoon Bopha was easily surpassed by typhoon Haiyan the year after. There will be more that are just as strong.

This is why we always have to be prepared. It will help, however, if we prepare without unnecessarily causing fear and panic. Like what is being shared on social networks.

The weather anomaly hovering just outside the Philippine area of responsibility with international name Peipah is a tropical depression.

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It is not a typhoon. Thus, it is expected to bring rain. The proper preparation will be to keep watch over flood-prone and landslide-prone areas. There is absolutely no reason to make it appear that Peipah with wind of 55kph is anywhere near super typhoons Bopha (Pablo of December 2012) and Haiyan (Yolanda of December 2013). A tropical depression is the lowest category of storm. The next is a Tropical Storm and the next is Category 1 Typhoon. Yolanda was a Category 5, just because there is no Category 6 even as Yolanda's strength far surpassed what is already a much-feared Category 5.

The message here, prepare but always be calm. Never cause unnecessary alarm as well simply because humans tend to be used to even extreme emotions, sooner than not, they will not act on anything that resembles loud warnings that did not bring in the fire and brimstones the warnings tried to conjure. More of these panicky messages over mere rainfall and blustery wind can desensitize a people, who may end up shrugging off warnings. We cannot afford that.

But how can we stop panicky messages from being passed on from account to account? We can’t. We can simply ensure that proper information reaches the people faster and more effectively than social networks.

This, again, is where the role of the barangay officials and their staff come in. Especially because the most vulnerable communities are in areas where weather forecasts and warnings may not be fully understood. There is need to explain, there is need to assuage fears, there is need for continuing education and understanding of the threats that are facing us.

There will be more coming our way. Just yesterday, climate experts have noted that the Philippines appear to be experiencing a faster rate of sea level rise. Of great importance during these times is access to proper and appropriate information that can be understood and acted on by all.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 09, 2014.

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