After four and a half months of training, Panama VOST, the Equipos de Voluntarios Virtuales Panama, has reached satisfactory goals for all of us in this group.
Rapid growth has taken place in Panama, both urban development and population, resulting in an increase in emergencies. This has driven the need to use other, less conventional means to liaise between the site of the emergency, the user or restigo and systems answer, in order to shorten the time to respond.
To date more than 48 volunteers are involved in coordinating, reporting, monitoring and dissemination of information, basically aimed at emergency issues, disaster prevention and risk across the country. Virtual Operations Support Team members are monitoring large scale international events simultaneously, virtually 24 hours, 7 days a week.
The group is made up of professionals from different specialties, amongst which are:
- industrial engineers
- risk specialists
- systems specialists
VOST Panama also includes social networking NGO volunteer staff from the Fire Department of Panama, the Panamanian Red Cross and senior management of the National System of Protection Civil and ADD 911. Additionally, VOST Panama is coordinating with the Logistic Officer for the International Federation of Red Cross in Panama and Community Manager of the local Red Cross sharing their virtual conference room for crisis management and remote meetings.
URL Live Map Link: http://bit.ly/VOSTPAMap
Emergencies that VOST Panama has supported include:
- Monitoring of flooded areas in the metropolitan area and provinces of the country.
- Monitoring and tracking of traffic accidents, channeling aid required for emergency services.
- Pacific Tsunami warning: Monitoring and following earthquake in Chile generated tsunami warning for the Pacific, where the population focused on this case and rumors were fought.
- Severe Weather: Daily monitoring of the meteorological state in the country. Amplifying early warnings.
- Coordination of air transportation of patients from distant points requiring medical attention in the capital of the country.
- Support for Emergency Operations Center during Carnival and Easter events, which take place over several days of national holidays, with people moving to different parts of the country.
- Presidential elections: Monitoring emergency situations during the month of May 2014
- Water pollution crisis: Sourced in the region of Azuero, 11 day operation monitoring and disseminating official information of response actions to this crisis.
- Wildlife Authorities: Monitoring and coordinating information about turtles, lizards and other wildlife on roads and homes with the national environmental authority to undertake the relocation of these animals.
- Association of Disappeared Panama Cooperation Agreement Established to assist in the dissemination of alert messaging and information about missing persons throughout the country.
- Collaboration with the Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO in the dissemination of informational Tsunami alerts in our region.
VOST Panama is currently working on the regionalization of teams, initially in 3 provinces, in addition to the capital.
By Juan Magaña
Translation support by Joanna Lane
July 25, 2014