UP Resilience Institute’s Mahar Lagmay named Start Network Change Maker

Mahar Lagmay Start Network Change Maker
Dr. Mahar Lagmay has been actively advocating science-based policy decisions for disaster management. Images from Dr. Lagmay’s work with UP Resilience Institute and UP-NOAH.

University of the Philippines professor Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, executive director of the UP Resilience Institute and the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (UP-NOAH), has been named a Start Network Change Maker for advocating science-based disaster management.

Dr. Lagmay led the 12 honorees announced by the international network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) hosted by Save the Children UK during its 10th-anniversary celebration of “those who have made or are making a considerable impact within their community, country, region, organisation or wider system – individuals, teams or organisations that are driving positive change within the humanitarian sector.”

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Lagmay, a volcanologist based at the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and leader of the award-winning Project NOAH, was named Start Network’s Change Maker for the “Faster and Early Action” category as an advocate for early disaster management planning and science-based policies to reduce the impact of natural hazards.

The UP’s chief disaster scientist was selected from nominations across the network and announced during the virtual assembly on October 15, 2020, and published on November 3.

Lagmay was introduced on the Good Day in Africa podcast series of the 2020 Start Network Change Makers.

“Year after year, there are probably about one or two disasters and in each and every disaster, there are many deaths—hundreds to thousands of Filipinos dying and since we have been having a lot of these disasters, we saw the need to build an army of disaster scientists,” said Lagmay in his podcast interview.

Dr. Lagmay advocates the inclusion of science-based policy decisions for disaster management, gleaning lessons from incidents to help the country avoid repeating the same mistakes, and educating as many people as possible.

“When you plan, that is the quintessential early action. The preparation must come long in advance and the preparation must be laid out in a map, it must be laid out in documents, proper plans of what every individual should do during a disaster and how to be able to address it, nip it in the bud so that you don’t try to address those things you don’t need to address anymore because you planned well and I think this is the true meaning of early action,” explained the UP disaster management chief.

Lagmay is a strong advocate for open data shared on the web and other platforms without restrictions, seeing the value of planning with communities and all sectors for real early action. He has been included in the Twitter Top 100 Scientists for 2019 for his tweet activity about science topics.

When asked how to stop hazards, Mahar Lagmay said: “I don’t think the hazards will stop because they are natural. What is not natural are disasters because they are a result of poor planning. That means you did not collect enough data, did not process the data, you did not find out the hazards based on that data, the hazards that are present in those areas, and if you are not ready because you did not plan, then a disaster will happen. A disaster is really a failure to anticipate the impacts of the hazards.”

The University of the Philippines was the first in Asia to offer public access when it opened its portal on Taal Volcano data following the eruption early this year.

Among Mahar Lagmay’s most recent involvement in disaster and relief management in the Philippines include the UP community-wide response for typhoon Rolly and Ulysses victims, an information campaign of animated infographics and YouTube videos on the Taal eruption in January which clarified misconceptions about volcanic activities, and leading UP resilience experts to help earthquake-stricken Mindanao.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to UP Resilience Institute’s Mahar Lagmay for being named a 2020 Start Network Change Maker.

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