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Sinead Ryan: When it comes to disaster planning -- we're a disaster

You've ironed the uniforms and polished the shoes. The standard lunchbox offerings of yoghurt, crackers and sandwich fillings are stocked up and the books are packed. The only question now is whether school will actually be open tomorrow.

Our collective reaction to dealing with any extreme weather condition is risible.

We capitulate entirely in the face of a couple of centimetres of snow, a moderate flood or baking sunshine. We simply can't cope. Although it's been said that Ireland often gets all four seasons in one day, when we actually experience anything outside the temperate norms we react with utter shock and don't quite know what to do next.

Most schools should be opening tomorrow, yet it's by no means certain that they will. The problem is: how will we know? In other countries, schools are covered by a governmental district -- in other words, there's a local authority body charged with making key decisions like opening times and they communicate it swiftly and effectively to all parents.

Here of course, we're relying on individual boards of management to make decisions about each school separately and hoping we'll get to hear about it in time before we trot the little darlings off.

Apart from the fact that most parents are also juggling decisions about whether or not they'll be able to go to work them-selves, depending on their childcare arrangements, a closed school can spell disaster.

With enough notice, we can cope, but it seems there is no cohesive plan.

So, how long will you wait? Will you start texting other mums tonight? Will you hang on until early morning and peer outside the window to see how bad it is?

Do you hope the school will contact you? It's all very hit and miss.

A modern school is well equipped to deal with a snow flurry (and, in most places, that's all it is). Down the road, another might be housed in an archaic building that barely has running water let alone the means to cope with ice. You might have a child in each. So what to do?

We really are a disaster of a country when it comes to planning for basic needs like this. Nobody's expecting Alaskan snow ploughs or chains on the cars, but a little foresight into what we might do, should such weather befall us, shouldn't be beyond the bounds of possibility.

We have grit on order from somewhere in Europe -- despite it snowing for much of the last two weeks.

Fuel prices are at an all time high -- surely a decision to temporarily chop the VAT off home and school heating oil would be prescient?

And sometime we might get around to joined up thinking between Government departments over planning for events which other countries seem to manage easily.


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