A major emergency is an incident beyond the normal capabilities of the principal emergency services, which causes or threatens:
- Death or injury
- Serious disruption of essential services
- Damage to property, the environment or infrastructure
Such events include explosions, train crashes, incidents involving hazardous substances and forms of severe weather such as flooding and storms.
Principal emergency services
The main emergency services are the first services to respond to most major emergencies. They are the blue light services that respond to normal emergencies, that is, the Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service and the Irish Coast Guard.
Principal response agencies
Principal response agencies (PRAs) are the agencies that have been designated by Government to respond to major emergencies. They are:
- The Garda Síochána
- The Health Service Executive
- The local authorities
Each principal emergency service is part of a larger PRA. For example, the Fire Service is a local authority service. In the event of a major emergency, the staff and resources of the wider PRA are required to manage the consequences of the major emergency event and to co-ordinate its response with the other PRAs.
Major emergency management
Major emergencies require special arrangements to ensure a co-ordinated and effective response by the PRAs.
Framework for Major Emergency Management
The Framework for Major Emergency Management is a framework of policies, structures and arrangements for preparedness and response to major emergencies at the local and regional levels. It's purpose is to enable divisions of the Garda Síochána, regions of the Health Service Executive and local authorities to prepare for and make a co-ordinated response to any major emergency that occurs in their area.
The Framework also sets out arrangements for other services such as the Defence Forces, voluntary emergency services, utilities, transport companies, industrial and other participants, and the affected communities to support and work with the PRAs in reacting to and managing major emergencies.
Office of Emergency Planning
The Office of Emergency Planning is responsible to the Minister for Defence for the co-ordination and oversight of planning for emergencies. It also provides a support role to the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning. It has published a handbook entitled Preparing for Major Emergencies (pdf).
The Government task force
The Government Task Force, chaired by the Minister for Defence, provides policy and direction on Emergency Planning. It co-ordinates the emergency planning activities of all government departments and public authorities. It also promotes the best possible use of resources.
Inter-Departmental Working Group
The Office of Emergency Planning chairs the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Emergency Planning (IDWG) which carries out specific studies and develops particular aspects of emergency planning. The IDWG is the means by which expertise is shared between government departments and public authorities on emergency planning.
The lead responsibility for specific emergency planning functions remains with the relevant government departments. When an emergency occurs, the appropriate emergency plan is set into operation with the relevant department taking the lead in its implementation.
The Government have an information campaign to help the public to be better prepared to deal with a period of severe weather.
The campaign includes:
- Be Winter-Ready (pdf) - advice on being prepared for Winter and severe weather
- winterready.ie - booklet including practical advice during extreme weather
- guide for severe weather (pdf) - advice on travel during extreme weather
- guide for businesses on preparing for severe weather (pdf)