App helps assess Yutu damage


The mobile application called “RC Collect” has been a big help in assessing the damage and collecting data from every village impacted by Super Typhoon Yutu that battered the islands of Saipan and Tinian last month.

Speaking before the Saipan Chamber of Commerce members in last Wednesday’s membership meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, American Red Cross-NMI Chapter executive director John Hirsch said they use the same app in data gathering, which they then share with local and federal partners.

RC Collect is a data collection geographic information system app.

Hirsch said they used the app in their preliminary damage assessment on Saipan.

“What we did was we drove around. …We looked at Chalan Kanoa that was really hit bad, like Koblerville and San Antonio,” he said. “We tried to get a general idea of what’s the extent of the damage and then go back and we do a detailed damage assessment. This was done in collaboration with [local] Homeland Security.

Using smartphones with the app, “we go to a house, see that it is damaged, and we hold the phone up where it drops a geo-location pin on that same location where we are standing. Then back at our headquarters, we can see that pin pop up in the map, showing, for example, that in District 1, in Chalan Kanoa, here’s the house and this is the extent of the damage.”

Hirsch said they share that data with the CNMI government and federal partners like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which then use it as a guide in delivering services and other relief.

“The app is a very powerful tool for us. It has taken us 10 days to get it done and it is finally finished. …The image is overlaid with the Department of Public Lands lot map. So, every single pin that’s dropped, you can actually see what lot it is on.”

Other steps

Hirsch said their first step is to provide support in the shelters once the government opens the facilities to house people gravely affected by the storm.

“We have disaster mental health experts and we provide health services by nurses and social workers going out to shelters and meeting families.

“The other thing the Red Cross provides is feeding. We have a large shelter population right now of about 1,000 people and we’re providing roughly 5,000 meals a day to the shelters here and on Tinian.”

The meals are for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Red Cross then begins distributing emergency supplies once they are done with the disaster assessment. FEMA and the U.S. Department of Defense had helped airlift the emergency supplies from the West Coast and Hawaii to Saipan.

“We need to get out our emergency supplies that arrived in the last couple of days. We have approximately 250 pallets of supplies that came in. These include mosquito coils, flashlights, mosquito nets, tarps, coolers, buckets, water purification machines…”

Fifteen teams have been handing out supplies in Chalan Kanoa and other villages.

Hirsch said they go back out to meet with families in every village to ask what are the other things that they need once they are done with the disaster case management and emergency response.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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