Be Winter

Winter-Ready 2012-2013
Information Campaign
Q & A’s for launch on 9 November 2012
1. What is the purpose of the campaign?
The purpose of the campaign is to provide advice and information to help the public be
better prepared to deal with a period of severe weather. A website
is available to provide practical advice and contact details of the main services that can
provide help in extreme weather-related emergencies.
The campaign is also to reassure people that the Government has made preparations for
the winter. The key message of the campaign is to be prepared, stay safe and know
where to get help should you need it.
2. Who should I call if I need advice or guidance during a severe weather emergency?
The Website provides a range of numbers that you should call if you need information or
advice from a range of response agencies and service providers. In the event of an acute
emergency, the emergency services can be contacted by dialing 112/999.
3. How much has the Winter Ready 2012-2013 campaign cost?
The costs of the campaign have been kept to a minimum. Departments are working
together and utilizing existing budgets. The total cost to date is approximately €17,500.
4. How will members of the public who do not have access to the internet be
Limited copies of the booklet ‘Be Winter-Ready ‘ may be obtained through the Office
of Emergency Planning LoCall 1890-252736 or 0761 001 608 email
TV and radio will also provide up-to-date advice and information during severe weather
emergencies. Information is also available on Aertel page 592.
Alternatively, a synopsis of the advice and contact information on the website is
contained in a downloadable and printable version of the ‘Be Winter-Ready ‘ booklet,
which can be obtained from the website and provided to those
without internet access.
5. What is the likelihood of another severe winter?
Comparable winters (over recent decades) to that of 2010/11 were in 2009/10, 1983/84,
1978/79, 1962/63 and 1946/47. Such winters occur roughly once every ten years, so the
percentage chance of the coming winter being as severe as that of 2010/11 is
approximately 10%. While we cannot say how severe this winter may be, our message
continues to be ‘it is better to be prepared’.
6. How far ahead can Met Éireann warn of severe weather?
The Met Éireann forecast office monitors developments in the weather up to
approximately two weeks ahead. Potential severe weather will usually become apparent
at about one weeks lead-time, and Met Eireann then monitors it for a day or two to see
that the forecasts are evolving consistently.
7. When will Met Eireann issue warnings?
Met Éireann normally provide a “heads-up” in the public forecasts at about 5 days lead
time but don’t issue formal warnings until two to three days ahead as the extent of the
affected areas and the severity of the anticipated conditions are more certain at these time
8. How likely is it that we might get a superstorm like “Sandy”?
The so-called “Night of the Big Wind” on 6/7 January 1839 caused widespread damage
throughout Ireland and parts of Britain, and more storms through February 1903 had
similar devastating effects. More recently the “Great October Storm” of 1987 caused
substantial damage on our neighbouring island. So, very severe storms can occur in our
vicinity but thankfully they are the exception rather than the rule.
9. What lessons have been learned from recent experiences?
There was a comprehensive review carried out following severe cold weather of
2009/10. The Review Report, published by the Department of the Environment,
Community and Local Government, made a number of recommendations. Many of these
were implemented in advance of last winter. Some are more longer term and the
Government Task Force on Emergency Planning is overseeing the implementation of
these recommendations.
These recommendations included, inter alia, better weather warning systems, increased
stocks of salt for road gritting, improved arrangements for prioritising and clearing
public footpaths, better arrangements for dealing with stranded vehicles particularly at
motorway junctions, new guidelines for local authorities in respect of distribution of grit
for local gritting, better public information to the public and stronger linkages with
business and the farming community.
10. What has the Government done to prepare?
The role of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning is to ensure that there is
coordination across the various departments and agencies. At this morning’s meeting
(9th November 2012) of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning all of the
relevant Departments and Agencies provided briefings on what steps have been taken in
order to be prepared and are available to provide a briefing to the media.
11. Who is responsible for responding to a weather-related emergency?
The Department of the Environment Community and Local Government is responsible
for leading the response to weather-related emergencies. The Department of Transport
plays a major supporting role as transport is one of the main sectors affected by severe
weather. The Office of Public Works leads in developing flood defences and
infrastructure projects in flood-prone areas.
During the prolonged cold weather of 2010, the Severe Weather National Coordination
Group comprising of 27 different Departments and Agencies was led by the
Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and met every day.
The focus of the Group was to ensure that there was a coordinated “Whole of
Government’’ response to the weather situation; to provide high level support to the
front line responders; to address issues as they arose; and to ensure that timely and
accurate information was provided to the general public. Should the need arise; this
Group would be convened this winter.
The front line responders are the Local Authorities, An Garda Síochána and the HSE,
supported by the Defence Forces, the voluntary emergency services, individuals and
community groups who assist them.
12. What will happen if we get another severe winter?
If we have another bout of severe weather the Severe Weather National Coordination
Group will be activated in the National Emergency Coordination Centre and it will bring
all of the relevant State Agencies together to develop a ‘Whole of Government’
response. This will include a comprehensive public information programme.
13. Do recent severe winters we’ve experienced mean our climate is changing and we
can expect more severe winters in future?
There are many theories about that have attempted to link the recent severe winters with
some external influence; most notably sunspot activity, which was low over the relevant
years. However, the severe winter weather of 2010/11 only affected a small part of the
globe; western Europe and some eastern parts of the US. In contrast, the western parts of
America had very mild weather over those winters, as evidenced by the need to create
artificial snow for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Why should a low sunspot activity
affect one part of the globe only? While our depth of understanding of these factors is
low, it is much more likely that the two recent cold winters were no more than a
manifestation of the great variability of the weather from year to year (especially at our
On the other hand the most recent winter, 2011/12, was very wet over Ireland and also
over many parts of Britain. We also saw a record minimum in the extent of Arctic sea ice
recorded in mid-September, and the extent is still well below the long-term average for
the time of year. There is very active research ongoing into possible linkages between
Arctic sea ice extent and weather in the mid-latitudes (i.e. where we live) but it is clear
that any linkages that do exist are complex and will require significant research effort to
14. If Global Warming is a reality, why are our winters so cold and severe?
Global Warming refers to the rise in average temperatures across the entire globe, in all
seasons. One cold season, in one small part of the globe, is easily counterbalanced by
very warm seasons across more extensive regions to give a continued overall warming
trend. Even in a warming world we will have a mix of cold winters and mild winters;
warm summers and indifferent summers. The proportions will change, as will the
extremes, but the variability of weather will remain.
15. What determines a severe winter?
A severe winter isn’t limited to frost, ice or snow; heavy rain and strong winds can have
significant impacts. We could have what we call an ‘average’ or ‘normal’ winter but that
doesn’t preclude us having severe weather within it. For example, we could have a
period of very cold, icy weather causing disruption that is countered by some
exceptionally mild weather but the end-of season summary might indicate ‘normal’.
Similarly, if much of the seasonal rainfall occurred over a short period of time, it would
undoubtedly lead to significant flooding and disruption but the whole-of-season rainfall
total could be ‘normal’.
16. Will transport services be disrupted by severe weather?
Transport services are always susceptible to severe weather events such as heavy snow,
severe ice and flooding. However, our transport operators and agencies have response
plans in place in the event of severe weather. These plans are to keep our national road
network, rail and airport runways open as far as possible, and to keep the public
informed of developments throughout any severe weather period.
17. Where can I get contact details for Transport Operators?
Contact details for the transport operators are provided on the
website and in the “Be Winter-Ready” booklet which is available on-line at that website. will also be a quick and customer-friendly portal to all the Public
Transport operator/Agency sites and to other information sites such as those of Met
Éireann, the Local Authorities, AA Roadwatch and Local Radio Stations. This
information will be uploaded during severe weather events.
18. How do I check whether my Bus/Train/Luas is running?
You have a number of options. Firstly listen to the national and local radio stations who
keep their listeners updated during severe weather events. You can access on the web, which will take you to which ever public transport
operator you wish to check. provides real time information
for transport in the Dublin area. You can also access the operators directly on their web
sites. For those without web access you should check the phone book and Aertel page
592 for customer service numbers for the transport operators for your area. Efforts are
made to extend the opening hours of these services during severe weather.
19. How can I get information on road conditions?
In the event of severe weather, details of road conditions can be found on the websites of
the National Roads Authority (NRA) and Local Authorities through the websites and Details will also be available from
national and local radio and media.
20. What steps can I take to prepare for the coming winter?
The Winter Ready booklet and website has many helpful tips on how to prepare for the
coming winter.
21. Are sufficient supplies of salt in the country to keep our roads open?
Yes. At the start of this winter 210,000 tonnes of salt will be available and strategically
located across the country. By comparison, 60,000 tonnes of salt was used over last
winter and some 130,000 tonnes was used during the very severe winter of 2010/2011.
Provision is also in place to acquire additional stocks over the winter in the unlikely
scenario that more stocks would be needed.
Local Authorities have Winter Maintenance Plans in place for the coming winter, aimed
at keeping our national and strategic routes open should severe weather occur.
22. How do I check if my road route has been salted/gritted?
In advance of a severe weather event your local Council will have published on their
websites the priority routes being treated during severe weather. In total, normal winter
maintenance covers 18,000 km of our 96,000 km road system. It is not possible to treat
the entire roads network. National/Local Radio and AA Roadwatch also provide updated
information. If you are using the motorway system you can access live pictures of
conditions on your route by checking the NRA website. Links to all the local authority
websites are available on the and websites.
23. Should I clear my footpath if it snows?
Yes, all householders and businesses are being encouraged to clear snow and ice from in
front of their premises. This will help everyone in the community to get around more
safely. The Website provides advice on how best to carry out this task and, of course,
only clear snow if you are confident to do so and you don’t have any underlying medical
24. Can I be sued if I clear my footpath and somebody subsequently falls?
No, you will not be liable; the clear advice from the Attorney General is that no liability
arises where footpaths are cleared in a safe manner. The same advice applies in the case
of the spreading of grit by volunteers on local roads – i.e. that the issue of liability does
not arise where the material is delivered, stored and used in a safe manner and does not
cause a hazard.
25. Where can I get more information on airports?
All our airports operate arrival/departure information. Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports
are all linked on the website. When a severe weather event occurs make
sure to check with your airline company for any changes. The contact details for your
airline are also available on the website. Additionally the
national/local radio stations are very useful in providing updated information.
26. What is the Government doing to lessen the effects of flooding?
The principal response mechanisms to flood emergencies are set out in the Major
Emergency Management Framework. The Winter Ready booklet also details such
The Department of Social Protection’s Humanitarian Aid Programme can provide early
assistance to those affected by severe flooding events.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) is the lead agency in relation to flood risk
management. Its core strategy up to the end of 2015 is the Catchment Flood Risk,
Assessment & Management (CFRAM) programme, which will provide a detailed
mapping of 300 locations nationally there is risk of potentially significant flooding. A
flood risk management plan will be produced for each of these areas by end 2015.
The OPW has an on-going engagement with the Principal Response Agencies to ensure
adequate information sharing on flood risk data and this will become more focused with
the detailed level of information which will emerge from the CFRAM Programme.
In addition, OPW has consulted extensively with the response agencies in the
preparation of the Strategic Review of Flood Forecasting and Flood Warning in Ireland.
In parallel with the CFRAMS programme, the OPW funds a wide range of interim flood
protection works across the country through its funding support for remedial works
proposed by Local Authorities.
Preparatory measures which can be undertaken by the householder to better protect their
dwellings against flooding inundation are also detailed at the website
27. How will the CFRAM programme ensure a reduction in flooding events in the
The CFRAM programme comprises three main stages:
Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment
Flood Hazard Maps
Flood Risk Plans
The completion of the flood hazard maps in 2013 will provide all local authorities with
detailed flood mapping indicating extent, depth and flows in areas of significant risk.
This mapping will focus attention on agreed locations of risk to be monitored closely
during periods of extensive rainfall. This will improve the ability of response agencies to
monitor flood risk at these locations in real time and provide a more timely response to
flooding situations.
The completion of the flood risk management plans in 2015 will define the nature and
scope of flood risk in areas vulnerable to siginficant flood risk and the management
measures to address and mitigate that risk.
28. What is the status of the Strategic Review of Options for Flood Forecasting and
Flood Warning in Ireland.
An independent report by consultants (JBA Consulting) was commissioned by the OPW
to carry out a strategic review of options for flood forecasting and flood warning in
Ireland. The report went to Government in May 2012. There are significant time, cost
and resourcing issues attendant to the provision of flood forecasting and warning
services and these issues have required further detailed consultation with the relevant
Government Departments prior to making a final recommendation to Government in the
matter. That consultative phase has been almost completed and OPW intends to submit
its proposals to Government before the end of the year.
29. What is the Government doing about people facing difficulty in getting flood cover
on their house insurance.
Minister of State Hayes is seeking an agreement between the OPW and the Irish
Insurance Federation (IIF) on a sustainable system of information sharing particularly for
locations vulnerable to flooding and for identifying flood alleviation schemes and works
completed and where the standard of protection afforded by these works could be
verified. Any property protected by significant public capital investment should be able
to receive a quotation for insurance at reasonable cost.
To meet the technical requirements set out by the industry for risk assessment purposes,
a proposed template for providing the required information, on a GIS platform, has been
presented to the IIF and a number of the main insurance companies. A positive
response from the IIF to this proposal is awaited.
30. Severe weather can impact on the farming community – where can farmers get
The farming community has proved to be very resilient during recent spells of severe
weather. However, Teagasc can provide specific advice based on best practice for the
various sectors of agriculture and this is published on both the Teagasc, the Department
of Agriculture’s websites and links are provided on the website.
31. What is the Government’s role in assisting businesses?
The website provides specific advice for businesses. During
previous severe weather the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation consulted
with a number of business representative bodies and fed back information on any
significant incidents to the National Coordination Committee or to local frontline
agencies (e.g. local authorities). A detailed checklist for businesses has been prepared
outlining key measures to be taken. The checklist is available to download from and websites.
32. What about school closures?
The decision to close a school in severe weather rests with the school management
authority. Some of the issues that schools take into account include conditions in the
school itself, the capacity of the school to ensure the health and safety of students whilst
in school, and ability of parents, students, and staff and school transport services to
safely negotiate local road conditions to reach the school. If a school has to close due to
severe weather, the school will make all efforts to contact you. Most schools use a text
messaging service to communicate with parents. Local radio or the school’s website may
also be used to alert parents to a school closure.
33. What about the voluntary sector?
The voluntary sector can play an important role in assisting the response, for instance,
during 2010’s severe weather the Civil Defence supported the HSE, Local Authorities,
and An Garda Síochána and the general public particularly in isolated areas. Civil
Defence Four-Wheel-Drive vehicles and all-terrain vehicles were deployed in support of
the emergency services. An average of 220 Civil Defence volunteers from 28 Local
Authority areas was involved in the response.
34. What is the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning?
The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning is a group set up to improve the
coordination of emergency planning across Government and help share information and
keep emergency planning high on the agenda of Government Departments and Agencies.
35. What is the purpose of the National Emergency Coordination Centre (NECC)?
The NECC is a dedicated location for coordinating the response to emergencies that
require a national-level response. It has been used during severe weather events and
during the volcanic ash emergency that occurred in May 2010. The NECC also facilitates
training, exercises and the hosting of meetings of the Government Task Force on
Emergency Planning.
36. What arrangements are there in place for providing information to the public?
The website is a portal with links to all the websites that have upto-date information on areas such as the HSE, transport and travel, weather forecasts,
local authorities etc. In addition to this winter specific website, there is also an overall
Emergency Planning website at that provides more
information and links on the whole of Government approach to emergency management.
In addition, all of the relevant Departments, Agencies and Service Providers provide
their own specific information on their websites. For those without access to a computer,
Aertel pages are available with all of the relevant information (see Aertel Page 592).
Limited copies of the booklet ‘Be Winter-Ready ‘ may be obtained through the Office
of Emergency Planning LoCall 1890-252736 or 0761 001 608 email
TV and radio will also provide up-to-date advice and information during severe weather
emergencies. Information is also available on Aertel page 592.