Toward a sustainable smart flood early warning system: A resilient model for capacity building
In August 2020, work on the “Baguio City Smart Flood Warning, Information, and Mitigation System” pilot project commenced with the support of the Government of Australia and the Asian Development Bank through the ASEAN Australia Smart Cities Trust Fund (AASCTF). Together with the City Government of Baguio, the project team worked on developing a flood early warning system (FEWS) that would help reduce the city’s vulnerability to climate change-enhanced hazards and improve community disaster preparedness and awareness.
But beyond the technological interventions that the project provided, one critical factor in the project’s success was building the local government’s capacity to operate and utilize the FEWS effectively beyond the pilot project’s timeframe. Thus, the year-long “Targeted Capacity Building Program to Enhance Delivery of a Sustainable FEWS” component was added to the Baguio pilot project in December 2021 to ensure the program’s continued success and long-term viability.
Specific Interventions Supported
The targeted capacity-building program consisted of two components: First was a 3-module online training program, which focused on giving the participants a general understanding of the FEWS and training for the software used in the specific FEWS being implemented by the pilot project.
This component was led by Denmark-based water environment consulting firm DHI Group, and was carried out online through both self-paced and instructor-led sessions.
The second component was the on-the-job (OTJ) training led by Ramboll, which aimed at preparing the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Team with the skills and knowledge for setting up, operating, and maintaining the FEWS.
These in-person training sessions reinforced and built upon the foundational learnings from the online courses, providing in-depth hands-on experiential learning opportunities for the trainees in order to build their confidence. These sessions were carried out as pre-monsoon sessions in June 2022, and post-monsoon sessions in September 2022.
The OTJ training focused on four core elements:
Understanding of the hydrological and hydraulic characteristics specific to Baguio
Understanding the historical and real-time data available for Baguio
Capability of managing annual post-monsoon management, calibration, and evaluations and applying changes to the system
Capability of troubleshooting and operating the system in real-time during monsoon
The OTJ training was essential to fostering a sense of teamwork among the members of the FEWS O&M Team. Participants were able to communicate and collaborate more effectively, while the project team had a better awareness of their talents and possible roles in the operation and maintenance of the FEWS as a result of their being at the same place for the OTJ sessions. These OTJ sessions also allowed participants to apply their new knowledge and skills related to the Baguio flood models and the specific FEWS developed by the pilot project.
Eleven professionals were selected to participate in this targeted capacity building program. Of these 11 professionals, five staff members from the local government unit (LGU) constituted the “core group”. They will have the main responsibility for the O&M of the FEWS. A “peer group” comprising six professionals from local public institutions, such as PAGASA, DOST-CAR, and two local universities has also been selected for the program to support the core group.
Before the trainings were carried out, a Baseline Knowledge Assessment was conducted at the beginning of this capacity building component to confirm the group’s initial knowledge in the areas of hydrology, hydraulics, and modeling, since it was established in the initial stages of the pilot project implementation that no one from the core group members had any educational background in these areas. However, through the online training program and OTJ training, they gained knowledge and experience in FEWS and the software used in the specific FEWS being implemented.
Through extensive dialogue, feedback, and evaluation of the training’s content and format with participants, the project team was able to continuously learn and adapt the program’s delivery to maximize its overall effectiveness. The project team also prioritized open communication with trainees to tailor the course material to their interests and incorporate their feedback at every stage. Participants were asked to fill out evaluation forms during and after each of the three modules concluded to provide feedback on the individual sub-modules in addition to the feedback received during the sessions. With the goal of exceeding participant expectations, this evaluation bolstered efforts toward ongoing development and program modification. The results of the evaluation surveys for all three modules have shown that the level of satisfaction among the training participants were very high and that all participants were very happy with the training.
Results and Impact
One of the core group members, Chester Comicho from Baguio’s City Engineering Office, attested to the training program’s positive impact on him, professionally and personally. Chester is a civil engineer by profession and was selected to participate in the capacity building program. Despite having no prior knowledge in hydrology or hydraulic modeling, he committed himself to the training and was eager to learn everything he could about the FEWS.
“The training has removed the sense of stagnation in me, considering the fact that I am a government employee and a civil engineer in a profession that is purely engaged in infrastructure projects,” Chester explained. “But… attending the [training sessions] and just thinking of all the opportunities that my role in this project moving forward gives me a sense of excitement because I know that there are so many things ahead of me, and I can be so much more after this.”
Stephanie Trinidad, a key local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) officer, shared how the capacity building component of the Baguio FEWS project has significantly built up her confidence level. “I was able to gain knowledge on how the data from the installed water level stations were being processed,” she affirmed. “This training increased my technical capacity, especially because this is not really my field of expertise. With the additional knowledge and skills I acquired through the capacity building program, I am more confident of the responsibilities given to me as part of the core team in the operationalization of the FEWS and also being one of the DRRM officers of the Baguio LGU.”
Shan-ry Roberts from Baguio’s Management Information and Technology Division (MITD) shared his experience learning about the systems and data management side of the FEWS. “It’s really quite amazing and somewhat very challenging because it’s my first time learning it,” he said. “And, of course, I want to learn more. So, it is quite an amazing experience that we’re having.”
The targeted capacity building program had not only given Stephanie, Chester, Shan-ry, and the rest of their team members the knowledge and skills they needed to operate Baguio’s FEWS independently but also instilled in them a sense of ownership and responsibility. Based on this and the results of the program’s evaluation, the capacity building component of the Baguio FEWS project has significantly raised the level of knowledge and experience among the FEWS O&M team, though further technical support and expert advice to enable the O&M Team to manage fully and independently is recognized. Such further support, for which the project partners are in discussion on, will bring the project closer to ensuring the long-term sustainability of Baguio’s FEWS.
The completion of the capacity building component is one of the Baguio FEWS project’s significant milestones in 2022. Aside from this, the project also installed five additional real-time water level monitoring stations and automatic rain gauges in key locations around Baguio City. The real-time data collected by these stations and gauges will feed directly into the FEWS. In the future, the FEWS will be connected to Baguio’s Smart City Command Center, helping to further strengthen the city’s capacity to issue timely warnings to communities in high-risk areas and improve preparedness.
To further support the sustainability and resiliency of Baguio’s FEWS, the trust fund also facilitated the signing of two Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) between the City Government of Baguio, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (or PAGASA, the Philippines’ national meteorological and hydrological services agency) and the Department of Science and Technology – Cordillera Administrative Region (DOST-CAR), which establishes a framework of cooperation and mutual partnership to support the operation and maintenance of the FEWS. The two MOAs will strengthen collaboration between the three organizations on real-time weather data gathering and processing, operation and maintenance of the FEWS, training, and other technical support.
This article was first published as part of the Urban Financing Partnership Facility Annual Report 2022.
Kristine Lucero, AASCTF
“With the additional knowledge and skills I acquired through the capacity building program, I am more confident of the responsibilities given to me as part of the core team in the operationalization of the FEWS and also being one of the DRRM officers of the Baguio LGU.”
DRRM Officer, City Government of Baguio
Building capacity to build resilience. A trainee interacts with the modeling software used by the Baguio City Flood Early Warning System during an on-site on-the-job training session (photo: AASCTF).