Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers - Accident Emergency Services.


asked the Taoiseach if, in the event of a major accident, there is at present a person or body who has primary responsibility for co-ordinating emergency services at the scene of the accident, other than in the case of an accident involving fire; and who that person or body is.

Following the interdepartmental review to which I referred in reply to a question on 16 May 1984, the Government have approved framework procedures for ensuring a co-ordinated response to major emergencies.

Under these procedures, the activities of the agencies responding will be under the overall control and direction of a local authority controller where a danger area exists which would create a definite risk to rescue personnel. If no danger area exists, the procedures provide that control of the activities of each agency responding shall be exercised by a controller of that agency. Each controller will act in accordance with predetermined arrangements which will be fully co-ordinated in advance and under which the responsibilities of each agency will be known.

Will the Taoiseach say if this has been conveyed to the various agencies, and will he name the agencies? Will he say if they include health boards, the Department of Labour, the Army and others? A problem arises in regard to the transport of industrial chemicals. Is there any provision whereby these agencies will be notified? The Taoiseach said that predetermined arrangements would be made. Does that mean there will be meetings of the various agencies for the purpose of appointing a person or body to co-ordinate activities?

The bodies concerned are the local authorities, the health boards and the Garda Síochána. The predetermined arrangements are to be made by each body in respect of their respective activities. The co-ordination provisions that arise in regard to danger areas are set out in the framework document which involves the local authorities who will have the controlling role in such circumstances.

Have these agencies been notified and have they met to determine who should be in charge in the event of a major accident?

The framework was agreed by the agencies concerned in November last and it is known and available to all the various bodies concerned.

The Taoiseach said the agencies involved are the health boards, the local authorities and the Garda. Does he accept that the Department of Labour would have a major role to play? There was the occasion when very dangerous chemicals were transported by road through small towns and villages. Is there any reason why the Department of Labour are not involved?

I have specified the agencies who would be involved in dealing with an emergency should it arise, separately or combined. Obviously the Department of Labour would not be involved in dealing with an emergency. Clearly, though, all agencies and Departments which would have any information to offer in regard to action to be taken would be involved, but the actual emergency would be dealt with by the three bodies which I have mentioned.

Will the Taoiseach be prepared to circulate in the Official Report the document prepared by the inter-departmental committee?

I will send the Deputy a copy of it. It is a framework document and, obviously, each Department and agency have to fill in within that framework their own functions and roles. If the Deputy wishes to have a copy of it I will certainly send him one.

Will the Taoiseach tell the House when the document was issued and if the document supersedes any arrangements previously made by local authorities and health boards?

The document was agreed by the agencies concerned in November 1984, which is the date on it. Certainly, in so far as there were previous arrangements, this supersedes anything that was there before.