Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Severe Weather Events
Denis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
Question 61: To ask the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself with the level of support available to the Defence Forces to deal with severe weather emergencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17026/11]
Alan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
Whilst the Defence Forces are not a Principal Response Agency, as defined in the Framework for Major Emergency Management, they provide assistance in an Aid to the Civil Authority (ATCA) role under the multi-agency Framework. Representation on the Government Task Force, by both my Department and the Defence Forces, ensures the fullest coordination and cooperation with the appropriate lead Department in the event of an emergency. The Defence Forces are also members of eight Regional Working Groups that have been established under the Framework in order to coordinate the work of the Principal Response Agencies. Furthermore, on an ongoing basis, designated members of the Defence Forces, based around the country, act as Liaison Officers to Local Authorities and I am satisfied that this arrangement works well locally.
The various procedures that are in place, both nationally and locally, were seen to operate very effectively recently as the Defence Forces responded to all requests for assistance received from the civil authorities during the recent period of severe weather which ran from 27 November to 26 December 2010.
During this period, all assets, resources and capabilities of the Defence Forces nationally were made available to the Task Force, and its Inter Agency Coordination Committee, for the purpose of providing assistance where it was not possible for other agencies and organisations to respond.
The Inter Agency Coordination Committee, which met almost daily throughout the emergency, requested that, strategically, the Defence Forces would concentrate its support effort on the Health Service Executive, mainly in relation to mobility tasks. Approximately 70% of all ATCA operations conducted by the Defence Forces were in support of the HSE. This proved to be a very effective approach as transport was provided to HSE staff such as palliative care and community nurses visiting patients and in the transport of health workers, particularly doctors and nurses, to their place of work and, indeed, between hospitals as the need arose.
Assistance was also provided to those involved in the delivery of meals on wheels whilst focused ice and snow clearing operations were also carried out throughout the country; with particular efforts being made to maintain the safety of public infrastructure and key transport hubs.
Overall, I believe that the response of the Defence Forces proved to be extremely effective.