In the two years since Tropical Cyclone Seroja, the Emergency Operations Centre (Pusdalops PB) of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Province has undertaken a program of continuous strengthening to improve surveillance, early warning, information management and communication. Today, Pusdalops is the primary source of information on disasters for disaster management actors and community members in NTT. Ambrosius Kodo, the Head of the Subnational Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Province, still remembers very well how difficult it was to obtain data, especially during disasters, prior to taking up his position in August 2021. He stated that incoming reports were not systemised. This was despite the Pusdalops PB owning fairly advanced information.
The construction of the Pusdalops PB NTT building and its facilities was facilitated through the Australia Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction (AIFDR) Program, which was completed around 2015. However, there were gap in staffing and individuals with the necessary expertise and capacity to operate Pusdalops PB, he added.
“If there is a specific situation, the central (government’s) question is very simple: Has Pusdalops PB received the report yet? With this situation, how can we answer?” said Ambrosius.
These gaps in surveillance and data management systems, were highlighted in early April 2021,when the NTT region was hit by Tropical Cyclone Seroja. The disaster resulted in the largest floods and landslides in the province for more than a decade. Nearly 200 people died, and tens of thousands of people had to flee their homes. Unfortuanately accurate and adequate information that could be used as a reference, both before the disaster, during the disaster, and in the rehabilitation period of post-disaster reconstruction, was difficult to obtain.
Reflecting on this experience, Ambrosius believes that tare many benefits resulting from the revitalisation of Pusdalops PB including for the management of information related to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and emergency management and for the quality of data availabile to support development planning at various levels of the government..
The previous difficultes in obtaining timely information on disasters in NTT is also highlighted by Yusta R. Ramat, Prevention and Preparedness Staff of BPBD NTT and content manager for BPBD’s website and social media. Prior to joining BPBD NTT, Yusta worked as a journalist. He notes that during this time he, like most residents was more likely to seek information from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).
“When I first joined BPBD in 2021, several trainings for staff had been carried out before, including news writing training. But, since the system was not yet standardised, the results could not be optimised,” he said.
Momentum for Improvements
Ambrosius’ ambition of revitalising Pusdalops PB gained momentum when he met with the SIAP SIAGA Program soon after his appointment as Head of BPBD. As a result of discussions with Pak Ambrosius, the SIAP SIAGA team in NTT agreed to provide technical support to the BPBD towards identifying and addressing capacity gaps.
Based on the results of a mapping exercise carried out with support from the SIAP SIAGA Program, Ambrosius was able to clearly identify key gaps and the processes, mechanisms, expertise and resources required to address them. Whilst funding constraints prevented the addition of specailist IT staff to the Pusdalops PB team, training and process strengthening helped to strengthen staff and organisational capacity.
According to Yusta, these trainings lead to a signficant improvement in thequality of information being prodcued. Information gathering was also being undertaken through increasingly diverse media, ranging from official pages to social media. The types of information being produced also included infographics, and audiovisuals in addition to narrative reports.
Ambrosius noted that the SIAP SIAGA Program also facilitated the development of regulations and Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs). Equipped with the appropritely trained staff, and regulatory and operational guidance, on January 1, 2022, Pusdalops PB NTT officially began operating 24 hours a day with a total of 12 staff manning the facility in shifts to deliver a round-the-clock service.
Increased Public Trust
Over time public interest and trust in the information shared by Pusdalops PB NTT also increased. This is evidenced by the increasing number of people accessing information across all media channels. For Ambrosius, improving the quality of information and communication through various media managed by Pusdalops PB, including its call centre number 08113844777, is key to providing reassurance to the residents of NTT.
“Ultimately, people’s trust was established and continues to increase, which in turn makes it easier for BPBD to carry out its preparedness campaigns,” he explained.
Whilst etchnological developments have undoubtedly improved access to information in NTT, disinformation can also spread quickly and easily. However, by staying active around the clock, the Pusdalops PB team can respond to, and contain disinformation as it emerges.
“I consistenly emphasise the treatment of staff at Pusdalops PB must be different due to the distinct cycle and workload they encounter. That is why our ongoing discussions with the Organisation Bureau of the NTT Provincial Government remain intensive. The current focus We are discussing the institutional aspect of Pusdalops PB to avoid overlapping with emergencies. The emphasis is on information governance, proven to be essential, not only for the community but also policymakers,” said Ambrosius.
Improved disaster information management and governance in NTT through Pusdalops PB has indeed had an impact on stakeholder enagement in NTT. A range of disaster management actors both through the Disaster Risk Reduction Forum (FPRB) and other pentahelix elements, such as business actors, universities, and media, are now increasingly active in discussing various disaster issues in NTT.