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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Contingency plans in the event of a blackout

The Sunday Independent takes a look at contingency plans and the potential fallout from next week's planned all-out strike on the country's most vital services and the people who use them.

Airports:

Dublin Airport has back-up generators ready to go in the event of a black-out and say flights in or out of the country won't be disrupted. "We always have back-up generators ready here in the airport in the case of any disruption to services, which is usually unlikely," said a spokesman.

Train and Luas:

Irish Rail has warned that there is no contingency plan strong enough to continue to power Luas and Dart services in the event of a strike as both services rely on high-voltage overhead cables to power the trains. While diesel trains could operate in other parts of the country, Irish Rail relies on electricity for signalling and to light stations and run ticket machines.

Homes and businesses:

Homes and businesses may be left without tap water in the event of a strike as back-up generators are not installed in all local authority fresh-water systems.

Retail:

With Christmas just weeks away, the country's retail outlets will have to shut in the case of a strike, losing valuable business at their busiest time of the year. "The tills wouldn't work and the fridges wouldn't work so there would be waste, and workers would have to be sent home," said David Fitzsimons, chairman of Retail Excellence Ireland. "Christmas is the most crucial time of the year," he added.

Pubs and restaurants:

While the country's restaurateurs and publicans are hoping that back-up generators will help see them through in the event of a strike, the Restaurant Association of Ireland says that power cuts could ruin food in fridges and freezers, resulting in possible closure of the premises at such a busy time of year. "I have an alternative menu of cold food and meats ready just in case, but we hope it doesn't come to that," celebrity chef and owner of L'Ecrivain restaurant Derry Clarke told the Sunday Independent. "However, the stairs need lighting and the credit card and billing machines are all electricity. Generators are a temporary solution, but this is a massive problem for all in the retail sector," he added.

Hospitals and garda stations:

The country's hospitals will continue to operate as normal, using back-up generators in the event of power cuts. The HSE has assured the public that they have emergency contingency plans in place in the event of a sudden disruption such as a power cut. Garda stations, fire stations and key government departments will be powered at all times, leaving home owners and small to medium businesses to take the biggest hit.

Courts:

It is likely that important hearings will be delayed until the new year in the event of the loss of electricity. Dublin's Criminal Courts of Justice has ancillary power, but outside the capital there will be widespread disruption as many courthouses do not have access to emergency supplies.

Schools:

Up to 900,000 school children around the country will lose out if the all-out strike takes place on December 16. It is understood that the Department of Education does not have the ability to keep classrooms open, meaning that children will have to be kept at home. This means that working parents could be left struggling in relation to childcare.

Traffic:

Disruptions to the country's roads and the loss of power to traffic lights could be another costly effect of the planned ESB strike. The National Roads Authority has warned of the possibility tail-backs and risk-taking by motorists.

Elderly:

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said she is gravely concerned about the effect of a black-out on the elderly, who will be left with a lack of light, heat and ways to cook food.

Farmers:

Any strike will have a significant impact on farming and the food sector, according to the Irish Farmers' Association. "Farmers will feel the effects of power cuts particularly in dairying, livestock and poultry, and in horticulture where growers are at their busiest in the run up to Christmas," said current deputy president Eddie Downey.

Sunday Independent

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