Friday 31 May 2013
Emergency Services and States Departments involved in the multi agency response to the severe weather back in March this year met recently to review the response and take forward any learning outcomes.
On Monday 11 March 17 cm of snow fell at Guernsey Airport (official greatest depth) although unofficial records of 21cm in Torteval and St Peters are estimated. Gale force winds causing blizzard conditions brought the island to a standstill as main arterial roads were either blocked with fallen trees/snow drifts/abandoned vehicles or congested with traffic as families collected their children from school and workers returned home.
Considering the extreme weather event which combined heavy snowfall with gale force winds, the emergency services and responding agencies did an excellent job of working together to prioritise those that needed help most and delivering that help in difficult circumstances. Support from the community at large also played a significant role in ensuring no-one was left stranded without help and the assistance of many individuals and voluntary organisations was invaluable in contributing to that effort. The island has a strong community spirit which inevitably helped in ensuring no-one was left abandoned.
So with climate change concerns predicting more extreme weather in future years, is the island suitably prepared for such events?
Ashley Nicholas, Deputy Director, Guernsey Airport explained that:
"We are a small island with limited resources, and whilst considerable efforts have been made to ensure that we are as joined up in our response as possible, it is difficult to see the benefit of investing in expensive snow clearance equipment that might only be used once or twice in its life time. We were fortunate on this occasion to benefit from the Lagan machinery available on the island due to the airport re-development work".
The States Works snow clearance plan was activated during the severe weather and worked well in prioritising the clearance of the main arterial roads. As a result of the review, a number of additional key pavements have also been included within the snow clearance plan to take account of the increased number of people on foot during such conditions.
Catherine Veron, States Emergency Planning Officer summarised that:
"She was pleased with the multi agency response to the severe weather and that a number of minor issues had been highlighted in the review which individual departments would action."
"The severe weather highlighted the importance of being prepared. Organisations as well as individuals need to consider their own arrangements in severe weather, whether that be flexible working arrangements, how to get key staff into work, considering back up child care arrangements if schools are closed or keeping an eye on the wellbeing of vulnerable or elderly neighbours. Relying on the emergency services to get key staff to work is not best use of resources, so States departments and private sector organisations need to have plans in place to address this. Up to date Business Continuity Plans can be a useful starting point on such occasions."
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Emergency Planning Officer
Tel: 01481 717 337