Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government
Severe Weather Events Response
224. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his plans to assist local councils with extra resources for preventative measures if the same level of flooding occurs again this winter and if there is an emergency plan in place for same. [29405/16]
My Department is not involved in funding flood prevention works. Flood prevention and flood mitigation are the responsibility of the Office of Public Works which operates a Capital Programme and a Minor Works Scheme that provide funding for the construction of flood protection and flood prevention works.
Following last winter’s flooding my Department made €18m additional funding available to local authorities to support them in meeting the costs associated with the flood response and clean-up activities arising. This funding was provided to local authorities in acknowledgement of the exceptional nature of the work undertaken in protecting homes and property from flooding and in the post-flooding clean-up works.
Local authorities are designated as the Lead Agency for responding to severe weather events, including flooding. The response to all emergencies is appropriately locally-led in the first instance. The generic response arrangements are detailed in A Framework for Major Emergency Management (2006). Specific guidance for responding to severe weather events is outlined in A Guide to Flood Emergencies (2013) and A Guide to Severe Weather Events (2010). Local authorities have in place severe weather sub-plans based on this guidance material.
Met Éireann alerts local authorities directly when severe weather is forecast and such warnings are received by a severe weather assessment team within a local authority. The severe weather assessment team take the appropriate action to scale a response and to ensure resources are in place to support a response. During last winter’s flooding, this approach helped to anticipate and prepare for the response required by local authorities.
In their role as Lead Agency, local authorities carry out a number of functions during the response stage of flooding events and deal with recovery issues in conjunction with other responsible agencies. The local authority role includes:
- Coordinating an inter-agency response;
- Continuously monitoring forecasts/ alerts/ warnings to scale the appropriate response measures;
- Operating Flood Defences and deploying sand-bag defences;
- Clearing debris and fallen trees;
- Flood Rescue and pumping water (fire service); and
- Public Communication.
When required, local authorities liaise with the other Principal Response Agencies (HSE, An Garda Síochána) and, where necessary, activate inter-agency structures to manage the response.
The procedures for coordination of emergencies, such as flooding events, at national level are set out in Guidelines for Coordinating a National Level Emergency/ Crisis Response, published by the Office of Emergency Planning in the Department of Defence, in 2011. This document also sets out the designated lead Government Department for 41 risk scenarios identified for Ireland.
Where a situation merits, national level support can be brought to bear and the ‘lead Government Department’ will lead the coordination of the national level response. The purpose of this is to bring “whole of Government” support to bear in assisting the local response if required, to manage the national level issues and to ensure that information is provided to the public.
As lead Government Department for the response to severe weather, my Department convened and chaired a National Coordination Group on Severe Weather during last winter’s flooding events on the basis of the Guidelines referred to above. In accordance with standing procedures, all aspects of these severe weather events, including response and coordination at national levels, are being reviewed and any lessons identified will be incorporated into future operating procedures.