By Judith Juntilla
Have you ever thought of having a device that automatically shuts off power when it detects a strong tremor, thereby mitigating the secondary damage from fires brought by a strong earthquake?
The idea was foremost in the minds of five college students from Muntinlupa City where they were presented an opportunity to find a way to propose solutions to contribute to the disaster resilience of their community.
EuchelleAranzanso, Christian JophetClaveria, JafarDulangan, Fidel Sigue, and CelderickCabahug, submitted their award-winning prototype “Seismo-Power Terminator” in the Young Leaders for Resilience Program (YLRP) during the Top Leaders Forum 2019 in SMX Manila, Philippines. Their innovation was designed to shut down electricity/power of larger commercial structures during earthquakes. This aims to prevent the possible impacts of two interlinked hazards – earthquakes and fires, which was especially important for this team of students as they live in Muntinlupa which may easily be affected whenever a major earthquake occurs.
The team from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Muntinlupa and Colegio de Muntinlupa are among the eight (8) teams, which competed in the 1st ever Young Leaders for Resilience Program (YLRP). The newly launched program was a brainchild of Mr. Hans Sy, ARISE International Board Member and Chairman of the Executive Committee of SM Prime Holdings, Inc. The YLRP was initiated to encourage youth involvement in disaster risk reduction in the Philippines.
The National Resilience Council (NRC), a science and technology-based public and private partnership that supports government, communities, and academe in advancing disaster resilience, co-created the YLRP in partnership with SM Prime Holdings, IBM Philippines, Asia Pacific College, and National University.
The YLRP competition involved teams of students from universities in NRC’s partner LGUs who underwent IBM’s Enterprise Design thinking Workshops. They were presented with their local governments’ disaster resilience and climate change challenges and competed among themselves before a winning team was chosen to represent their LGU.
Aside from the Muntinlupa Team, other winners were the students from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan who won second place with “Project ORO”, a multi-hazard mobile application that aims to bridge the information gap between the government and the people. It provides regular updates on the progression of hazards, locations of evacuation areas, and valuable information on evacuees for better disaster response. Students from Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges in Iriga City won third place for their “Tri-button Emergency Aid Box” which was developed as a response to what they viewed as the most important factor in times of calamity: communication. Three buttons were intended for a specific purpose – green for medical assistance, blue for police assistance, and red for calamity assistance.
Participants of the YLRP came from various disciplines such as business administration, information technology/computer science, physical sciences, social sciences/arts, and engineering. Partners from IBM Philippines, Asia Pacific College, and National University guided these diverse teams to work together effectively towards developing innovative solutions through IBM’s Enterprise Design Thinking Workshop.
“Normally, when you’re faced with a problem, depending on your expertise, or experience, different people have different ways of coming up with a solution to a particular problem. What design thinking provides is a more structured way to guide people towards a particular solution that is more user-centric,” said Lope Doromal, Jr., Chief Technology Officer at IBM Philippines.
Design thinking is an approach to solving problems that puts users at the core of the process. It is described as non-linear, iterative, and highly user-centric. It is guided by three principles: user outcomes, diverse empowered teams, and restless reinvention.
GUIDING THE STUDENTS
The students from Muntinlupa credits the Muntinlupa local government for providing their team with data that helped support their project.
They drew insight from interviews with local residents. “Our prototype beneficiary was MangTibo who owned a small establishment which also served as housing for his workers. He is a single parent and often has to leave the house in order to find new clients for his business,” said one of the students, EuchelleAranzanso. The group also noted that MangTibo’s establishment was located near the West Valley Fault.
“We thought about MangTibo’s children, who may be alone should an earthquake happen at night and they are stranded in the building. We needed to create something that can terminate and shut off gas lines to the electricity and prevent a fire from happening,” added Aranzaso.
The recent mall fire in General Santos City following the 6.3-magnitude quake in Mindanao on October 16 also inspired the group’s solution. “The earthquakes we cannot stop, but we can try and lessen the secondary hazards like fire,” said Aranzanso.
They first came up with an earthquake detector and a triggering device that cuts off electricity supply, but soon realized that they did not have the proper equipment to detect an earthquake. They revised their initial idea and used the existing earthquake detection system of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and connected it to a power terminator.
“We also discovered that it can also be used in even bigger buildings which usually have higher voltages of electricity. And then the smaller residences, we can install the device through the main lines of electricity such as the substations or where the supply comes from,” explained Aranzanso. Materials used for the project are locally available and with some improvements, can also be installed in pipelines, gas stations, and even dams.
WHY THE YOUTH PERSPECTIVE IS NEEDED
Every year, ARISE Philippines and SM Prime Holdings together with United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and National Resilience Council (NRC) organize the Top Leaders Forum (TLF). The TLF which began in 2012 is an annual gathering of top leaders in the private and public sectors to discuss the work of its members and partners in their individual and joint initiatives towards supporting the building of climate and disaster resilient communities not only in the Philippines but also globally for the past eight years.
One of the visions of TLF is to promote understanding of disaster risks not only among its member companies but also among the youth who are envisioned to play a significant contribution in the attainment of disaster risk reduction in the Philippines.
“To realize this goal we needed to bring in the youth sector and try and engage them very early on in thinking systematically about what creates disaster and climate risks in their communities, and how they can contribute to address these risks,” said NRC President Antonia Yulo Loyzaga.
The competition is complementary to NRC’s three-year Leadership for Resilient Local Government Units Program currently being undertaken with eight LGUs. “The idea of bringing in the youth really feeds directly into the multi-stakeholder principle of building resilience in our cities,” added Loyzaga.
“We know that the youth have a very advanced level of digital literacy. They are very fluent in social media and they have no fear of technology. So, the spirit of innovation and being comfortable to new things is present in our youth sector. That sort of energy, openness, and digital literacy of this particular age group is what drew us, and in particular Mr. [Hans] Sy, who was actually the first person to say, ‘Why not involve the youth?’,” said Loyzaga.
DISASTER RISK RESILIENCE EFFFORTS
Loyzaga said that the Philippines is one of the most at risk countries from five major natural hazards, owing mostly to its vulnerability, the uneven level of preparedness of communities, and socio-economic and environmental conditions.
Liza Silerio, SM’s Vice President for Corporate Compliance, said that the private sector has a lot at stake in disaster resilience. “The good news is, the private sector has the resources and the technology to help mitigate the effects of climate change and natural disasters. ARISE is a purely private sector initiative and any company can sign up and become part of a global network of ARISE initiatives of the UN.” SM is the secretariat of ARISE Philippines.
“Overall, the Philippines has achieved great strides, particularly in hazard sciences, and being able to identify which areas of the country are actually exposed to the different types of hazards,” said Loyzaga. “What we would like is to understand the concept of vulnerability a little bit more. Where you have vulnerability, you will have the greatest impact.”
For now, the five students from Muntinlupa are looking to field their solution in an international competition and explore the possibility of additional funding to start implementing their innovation.
The winning team received plaques, medals, laptops, and cash prizes donated by SM Prime Holdings. The first place got a cash prize of Php100,000 while the second place and third place teams received P75,000 and P50,000, respectively. Other participating teams also received cash prizes.