The Telephone and Radio System Integrated Emergency Response or TaRSIER 117 is Bohol’s call and dispatch system attuned to provide a menu of immediate services for various crisis situations and public concerns in the province — from calamity aid and weather monitoring to police and fire prevention assistance to emergency medical assistance.
Background and Problem
The occurrence of various emergency incidents in Bohol, either natural or man-made, impacted its people’s lives and development. The notable incidents were the accidental poisoning of school children in the Municipality of Mabini where proper emergency response came only hours later, and the 7.2-Great Bohol Earthquake in 2013. Other incidents include natural hazards such as landslides, flooding, flash floods, storm surges during typhoons and man-made calamities such as building and house fires, gas explosions and structural collapses.
Given this context of disaster risks and vulnerability situation in the province, it became imperative to the provincial government of Bohol to prioritize and commit disaster and calamity resilience as a provincial development agenda. Specifically, a prompt, accessible, and receptive emergency response system becomes a key strategy in providing ground-level intervention not only to disaster situations but also to various emergencies in the locality.
Solution and Impact
The TaRSIER 117 was created by the Provincial Government of Bohol under Executive Order No. 5, series of 2010, and further institutionalized under Provincial Ordinance No. 2013-006. The system is the only province-wide emergency program in the country responding to local disaster, calamity, and emergency situations. It formally established 6 satellite stations in the municipalities of Carmen, Jagna, Ubay, Balilhan, Loon, and Talibon. The system uses security cameras around the city and in nearby areas as one of the leading sources, without the need for calls from the public. All communication received by the system is recorded, as a means of maintaining efficiency, professionalism, and gauging response time and retrieval of the necessary information to aid investigation and database build-up. It is an integrated system that uses telephone, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), UHF/VHF radio, cellular phone systems, and mobile applications.
Furthermore, it has transition radio facilities with a generator that can be used in cases of calamities when other communication media might fail. It also serves an umbrella unit for all radio organizations which includes the Chocolate Hills Amateur Radio League (CHARL) and the Bohol Law Enforcement Communication System (BLECS). The system maintains close coordination with partner agencies and integrates all emergency response services of the Local Government Units, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard, Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation, Maritime Police, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, and Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
Also, it established clear links and cooperation with the Office of the Civil Defense, Philippine National Red Cross through Red Cross 143, various volunteer groups like the Bohol Paddler’s Group, hospitals, rural health units, and the quick response units. Moreover, it established a partnership with the emergency units in San Francisco, New York, and Japan. State of Provincial Addresses (SOPAs) consistently reports TARSIER 117 as the lead-team of all sorts of emergency response in the province. Most of the emergencies it attends to are related to medical emergencies, though it is also the main implementer of the province’s emergency response in times of disasters and calamities. It is also currently the lead for all immediate search-and-rescue efforts in Bohol.
Currently, the system has responded to and saved 31,778 Boholano lives. The implementation of TaRSIER 117 is socially inclusive by ensuring that emergency services are accessible to the poorest of the poor members of the community, via competent responders that serve them with utmost dedication and care, providing the needed services free of charge. In addition, it covers other aspects of incidents such as blotter recording at the PNP, advanced information to hospitals, and notification to immediate families of victims. There were cases wherein the system facilitated the transfer of patients from another hospital in other provinces, fielding medical staff to accompany the patient during the transit.
Aside from its social impact, TaRSIER 117 caused a positive impact on its economy. From 524 emergencies responded in 2011, the 2017 data showed 796.18% increased responses on 4,696 emergencies. In its 7th year of operation, a total of 17,431 emergencies were responded. These responses directly benefited 31,778 persons who were at various levels of threats to their lives. Based on the estimated average economic cost of loss of life in the Philippines (at $100 or PHP 5,917/person as “value of statistical life” presented from Road Safety Forum), the services provided by the system have saved a total economic value of PHP 188,030,426.
In addition, the system saved the economic value of the properties from losses in the case of fire incidents. The presence of the system has also created a favorable climate for business and investments. It proved to the investors that Bohol is safe and secure, able to protect and respond to their welfare and business interests. Furthermore, tourists coming to the province feel more secure. These aspects of security for investors and tourists contributed to the sustainability of the overall economic development in the province.
Though TaRSIER 117 has augmented its capacity throughout the years, it was only in June 2016 that it was able to expand its physical facility with the establishment of its first satellite station in the Ubay Municipality in the northern part of Bohol. In January 2017, TaRSIER 117 was able to launch its first mobile app to provide more efficient and more accessible access to emergency response units. Realizing the effectiveness of the program, some of the municipalities (Alicia, Balilihan, Bilar, Buen-Unido, Buenavista, Candijay, Clarin, Danao, Dauis, Duero, Getafe, Garcia-Hernandez, Guindulman, Inabanga, Loon, Loay, Maribojoc, Pilar, San Isidro, Talibon, and Trinidad) in Bohol replicated the system that resulted into strengthening the support network for emergency response in the province.
The successful operation of the program is also benchmarked by other provinces in the country such as Cebu, Samar, Sorsogon, Misamis Oriental, Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley, and Cotabato. In May 2018, the TaRSIER 117 was recognized by the Business Initiative Directions in New York as Gold Category for Excellence and Innovation, proving that the program serves as the driver of innovation for the benefit of the community.