Officials tell us to chill out this winter with a barbecue
HOUSEHOLDERS have been told to deal with freezing weather by buying a barbecue.
A government department reviewed the situation that arose in the past two winters and concluded that every home in the State should have "some barbecue trays" on hand in case they're snowed in.
In conjures up an image of shivering families hunched over a smoking fire in their gardens, cooking sausages while surrounded by blankets, snow and ice.
The Department of the Environment confirmed that it was expecting families to use barbecues for cooking if their gas or electricity was cut off.
And it has recommended that a campaign of "household and community resilience" be undertaken to ensure people are safe, warm and well-fed this winter.
The cold spell which began in November last year was the third severe weather event to hit Ireland in 15 months.
It came after widespread flooding in November 2009 and a big freeze in December 2009. The three events caused more than €750m worth of damage between them.
The review, conducted by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, notes that the response from emergency staff was excellent.
But it says that round-the-clock efforts could not have been sustained.
"The strains were showing in a number of areas . . . meaning that in some cases, there was huge reliance on a small number of core staff.
"This made it difficult or even impossible to provide adequate rotation and resting of staff.
"It is doubtful that this level of response could not have been sustained for much longer, if the adverse weather had continued."
The review says a public information campaign should be conducted to advise people on measures they could take, and that schools should be given advice on when to close.
Plans should be drawn up to make sure that food continues to be delivered to local communities when they are snowed in.
Its 62 recommendations also include:
•Householders should know how to turn off their water supply to avoid damage from ruptured pipes.
•Every home should have fuel, a shovel, salt, barbecue trays and water containers.
•Grit should be provided to local communities to help keep roads open and footpaths clear. Local authorities should identify priority routes, and public offices be kept clear.
•Businesses and homeowners should not be legally obliged to keep paths clear of snow and ice -- this could be unenforceable, particularly among the elderly or apartment owners.
•Stocks of rock salt to help keep roads open should be increased. The National Roads Authority has already done this -- three years supply will be in stock by November, or 190,000 tonnes.
The review also found that warnings about flooding in Cork on November 19, 2009 were inadequate.
The release of water from the Inniscarra dam by the ESB left much of the city under water, with more than 50,000 homes without water for weeks after a treatment plant was damaged.
"The evidence is that both ESB and Cork City Council issued specific warnings to people affected by the flood . . . however, these more general warnings did not alert people at risk to the reality of what was coming."
But it ruled out a public inquiry, saying it was "difficult to see" what additional information might be gained.