City can use technology to better deal with extreme weather - South China Morning Post



City can use technology to better deal with extreme weather

The government's ineffective response to the heavy rain in early September drew much criticism. Therefore, I am putting forward three proposals to minimise the inconvenience and losses.

First, to get the public better prepared, the Hong Kong government should also issue SMS warnings – as has been done on the mainland, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea – in the event of a typhoon No 8, extremely heavy rain, hail, and very cold or hot weather, to all mobile phone users within the city, including tourists.

We should put behind us the criticism of the government's first use of SMS during the epidemic in March last year.

It was greatly disappointing to see commuters trapped in the vicinity of Wong Tai Sin MTR station during the period of heavy rain. According to media reports, passengers were asked to leave the station.

Second, to better handle such situations and protect commuters, central coordination is required. The key is a common operational picture (COP), a platform with geographic information at its core, which facilitates the exchange of real-time information between different departments for immediate coordination and resource allocation. The COP would also function as a command centre for logistics and personnel mobilisation.

Third, extreme weather is worrying, but satellites can provide information to enable people to be prepared. For example, Japan's Himawari and the US Geostationary Operational Environment Satellite are used for real-time weather reporting, and tracking of intense storms. Low-Earth orbit satellites with many operating paths, which can circle the Earth in about two hours and provide over 10 readings daily, have become popular. They can offer information on real-time weather changes and improve the accuracy of forecasting.

If the chief executive intends to establish a joint emergency response mechanism with other cities in the Greater Bay Area to address natural disasters, it is necessary to enhance the application of advanced information technology in Hong Kong to reduce the impact of extreme weather.




Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong