Bike Scouts Disaster Response: Share your story!

The Bike Scouts community uses bicycles and social teamwork to deliver help, hope, and courage wherever we ride! We’re also the only Volunteer Bicycle Messenger service for disaster response that has been at the frontlines of almost every major disaster in our communities since 2013.

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Typhoon Yolanda Response

Bike Scouts was founded on the day that Typhoon Yolanda made landfall in the Philippines in November 2013. With an initial 200 members Bike Scouts met at the Makati City office of Specialized Bicycles in the Philippines and within 48 hours teams of Bike Scouts were on the ground in Tacloban City in Leyte Island and also in Samar Province where the storm made landfall. Bike Scouts teams are the only Volunteer Bicycle Messenger service for disaster response in the world, partnered with the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR), UNOCHA, Philippine Business for Social Progress, WeRobotics – Philippine Flying Labs and with the support of brands like Decathlon among others.

During the Typhoon Yolanda response Bike Scouts teams rode a cummulative average of hundreds of kilometers per day to provide access to supplies and an alternative means of communication for people and places that were isolated by the storm. In fact, a good part of the information from ground zero that was uploaded online to services like Google Person Finder came from Bike Scouts teams on the ground that worked there for almost four months until regular communications was restored. For the past eight years since then, Bike Scouts teams, volunteers, and our growing community have been present in almost all major disaster events in the Philippines providing help, hope, and a means of local support for people that need immediate information or assistance. See more of the work of Bike Scouts during the Typhoon Yolanda response by getting a copy of our Typhoon Yolanda Photobook!

Taal Volcano Eruption Response (Batangas, Philippines)

Taal Volcano erupted on the afternoon of January 12, 2020, 43 years after its previous eruption in 1977. Seismic swarms began at 11am and were later followed by a phreatic eruption from Volcano Island Main Crater at around 1pm Philippine Standard Time (UTC+8). Loud rumbling sounds were also felt and heard from the volcano island. By 2:30pm, PHIVOLCS raised the alert status to Alert Level 2, although the PHIVOLCS through its Taal Volcano Observatory had already advised residents of Volcano Island to evacuate. Stronger explosions began around 3pm that spewed an ash column exceeding a kilometer high, prompting the PHIVOLCS to upgrade the alert status to Alert Level 3 by 4 pm. The towns of Balete, San Nicolas, and Talisay in Batangas and other towns within the shores of Taal Lake were evacuated. By 7:30pm, PHIVOLCS upgraded the alert status to Alert Level 4 after a continuous eruption generated a tall 10 to 15 kilometres (6.2 to 9.3 mi) steam-laden tephra column with frequent volcanic lightning that rained wet ashfall on the general north as far as Quezon City and Caloocan. Ashfall from the volcano were also experienced in Cavite and Laguna, and reached as far as Metro Manila and Pampanga. Bike Scouts was the only operating delivery service at the height of the volcanic eruption that provided access to food and critical medical supplies to people stranded in informal evacuation camps with no support.

Community Support, School Supplies, and Bicycle Donations

The Covid Pandemic has caused far-reaching challenges for a lot of people for the long term – especially those that are affected by disasters. Bike Scouts teams have been responding to a large number of disaster events including typhoons and floods in Eastern Samar and other places. One of the most immediate needs are food and medicine, and Bike Scouts has been doing its best to source and provide these needs to as many people as possible. However, the support that’s needed goes beyond just one day or a few weeks, people need help to survive while they have no options so that they will be able to help themselves when there is an opportunity for them. We are looking for donations of biscuits, canned food, packed noodles, rice, powdered milk, 3-in-1 coffee, powdered chocolate drink, diapers, feminine hygiene products and other essentials. Equally important at this time is support for schools and students in the forms of office materials like bond paper, printer ink, desktop printers, bicycles for mobility and others.

Covid-19 Pandemic Response

At the start of 2020 the Covid-19 global pandemic occured. The infection started in Wuhan, China at a food market that sold exotic animals for human consumption, according to initial reports. Specifically, reports mentioned the possibility that the virus came from a bat that had been cooked in a soup and served to customers at the market. The first human cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, subsequently named SARS-CoV-2 were first reported by officials in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019. Retrospective investigations by Chinese authorities have identified human cases with onset of symptoms in early December 2019.

While some of the earliest known cases had a link to a wholesale food market in Wuhan, some did not. Many of the initial patients were either stall owners, market employees, or regular visitors to this market. Environmental samples taken from this market in December 2019 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, further suggesting that the market in Wuhan City was the source of this outbreak or played a role in the initial amplification of the outbreak. The market was closed on 1 January 2020, and from then on the virus went on to spread around the world. Scientific studies are still ongoing to determine the specific source of the viral infection. As of now, there are 36,002,827 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,049,810 deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization Covid-19 Dashboard.

In the Philippines, there are 331,869 confirmed cases of Covid-19 (as of October 9, 2020) and over 6,000 deaths. The local response has been to lock down cities and towns across the country resulting in one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world related to the pandemic. As a result, people have lost their means to make a living or, in the case of Medical Frontliners, they’ve lost their means of transportation to get to work in the hospitals, labs, and other similar facilities where the important work of handling the crisis is being done.

In response, Bike Scouts have been working as a community to provide bicycles as a means of mobility for frontliners and food and medicine for people that were isolated by the lockdowns. The work still continues to day, and the Bike Scouts community is still working together to help find solutions to everyday problems and the impact of the crisis on a national scale.

Batanes Search and Rescue

A fishing boat from Basco and Uyugan in Batanes Islands went missing on Thursday, 22 August. The boat’s crew was composed of Tinong Alviso (45 years old), Antonio Lizardo (53 years old), and Eduardo Elica (35 years old), they were last seen at 11PM between Siayan and Itbayat Islands by Byron Peralta of Bike Scouts BATANES who managed to hand the missing fishermen his handheld radio before heading to Dinem Island (Diogo) to seek shelter from large waves. The other boat that went missing was supposed to head towards Mavudis Island and seek shelter there.

However, the boat never returned to port even after a few days and had never made contact with anyone. Byron had instructed the crew of the missing boat to contact him on channel 8, or change to channel 16 if they need help from a passing ship. By then, the families of the missing fishermen had posted to Facebook about asking for help in finding their missing relatives. Byron reported the incident to Bike Scouts and the process to connect with the Philippine Coastguard, Navy, and Air Force in coordination with provincial government of Batanes, Rapid Emergency Telecommunications Team (formerly connected with the Philippines’ Office of Civil Defense), Cagayan Disaster Coordinating Council, and later on the Taiwan Coastguard.

For seven days since the fishermen were last seen an NC212i aircraft flew SARO flights over Mavudis Island and other nearby areas together with a Beechcraft King Air C90 and an Islander aircraft. Later on, the Taiwan National Rescue Command Center in partnership with the Taiwan Coastguard notified the Keelung Coastal Station in northern Taiwan, Kaohsiung fishery station, and Donggang fishery station in southern Taiwan to broadcast and request all the vessels to help search for the missing fishermen. The Taiwan Coastguard also instructed the 4 district commands located in southern and eastern Taiwan to task their coast guard duty patrol vessels to search the missing fishermen. In total, the Taiwan Coastguard deployed 4 cutters, 2 patrol boats, and 12 offshore boats with 273 coastguard crews onboard to help in the search for the missing fishermen.

After 7 days, the fishermen were finally found and rescued in Dinem Island off the southeastern coast of Itbayat Island where they had managed to sail during the severe weather that prevented them from returning to Basco. Their boat sank near Dinem when their anchor line broke because of the size of the waves and all three crew members were forced to abandon the boat and swim to shore.

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