Bomba taps into power of social media to monitor landas season

Khirudin (right) in a discussion with his men during the flood monitoring today (Oct 3, 2019).

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By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Oct 3: In addition to the standard preparations for the ‘landas’ season, the state Fire and Rescus Department (Bomba) will also take advantage of crowdsourcing to monitor flood situations.

“In the event of continuous rain over four hours (medium to heavy rainfall) and two hours (heavy rainfall), the task force at each respective station must patrol and monitor areas that are often hit by flash floods. Firefighters manning the control room are also required to monitor flood events through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other applications.

“They will create social group networks using WhatsApp applications to communicate with district, state and local department heads, community leaders, village chiefs, state and district education offices and others deemed necessary to provide faster and effective up-to-date information and follow-up,” revealed state Bomba director Khirudin Drahman after attending the Zone One flood monitoring exercise today.

The voluntary fire fighting squads (PBS) and Bomba community teams were also told to monitor the disseminated information on status of floods in their respective areas.

All information will be channelled quickly to the Bomba state operation centre (PGO) to enable PGO to communicate relevant information to other government departments as well as management within Bomba for effective and efficient operations.

A total of 737 locations has been identified as high risk and prone to flooding in Sarawak.

Khirudin said the 737 locations are across seven zones, namely Kuching (104), Kota Samarahan (79), Sri Aman (75), Sibu (219), Bintulu (50), Miri (78) and Limbang (132).

In anticipation of the monsoon season and floods especially towards the yearend to early 2020, Bomba Sarawak is now on full alert and ready to deploy their team and assets when the need arises. The department is also fully prepared to respond to non-fire emergencies such as flood.

“The public relies on first responders during emergencies, and the more substantial the incident or the disaster, the greater the need for assistance delivered by the Fire Department and others with public safety missions,” he said.

The flood monitoring today involved a river survey from Bako to Bau with state fire and safety deputy director Mohd Fauzi Moht Kifli, assistant state director (operations) Tiong Ling Hii, Zone One chief Henderi Ardimansyah, fire station chiefs Faizal Saari (Tabuan Jaya), Di-Hata Gobel (Batu Lintang), Azaharul Sahari (Petra Jaya) and several other firefighters.

To date, state Bomba have 1,156 personnel. Logistics include land vehicles (109), water vehicles (48), and two helicopters on standby.

Khirudin pointed out since the department was equipped with such assets, it will make full use of them.

Bomba personnel from Zone 1 conducting flood monitoring on boat.

All 32 fire stations from seven zones in 12 divisions including 48 PBS with 19 land vehicles which are mostly in the rural areas are also ready.

The department has also identified 23 airports, 28 police district stations and 10 other areas in Telok Melano, Serian mini stadium, Ulu Paku Betong, Bario, Bekenu police station, Lubok Antu, Limbang hospital, Belaga, Song and Lingga as landing points for their MI-171 helicopter.

In recent years, Sarawak has been hit with flood disasters including in 2016 with flooding in urban areas, 2017 with interior areas hard hit, and 2018 and 2019 with flooding in southern Sarawak.

In its latest statement, the Malaysia Meteorological Department (MET) said the monsoon transition phase has started on Sept 24 and will last until early November.

The change of monsoon winds will result in weather changes, where there will be heavy downpours and thunderstorms.

Within this period (the Northeast Monsoon), the whole country will experience low speed wind from all directions, which has the potential to form thunderstorms.

The department also warned that the rainy weather has the potential to bring about flash floods and cause damage to structures with weak foundation. — DayakDaily