In all of Ireland’s local authority areas there are emergency plans available to be immediately implemented should disasters happen. These incidents can take place at airports, military establishments, factories and other industrial sites. Also, many of the facilities would have their own crisis management protocols. The procedures involved for taking control of these incidents would be well-documented and in many cases well-rehearsed.
The Irish Government’s 2008 A Framework for Major Emergency Management has this definition for a major crisis:
“A Major Emergency is any event which, usually with little or no warning, causes or threatens death or injury, serious disruption of essential services or damage to property, the environment or infrastructure beyond the normal capabilities of the principal emergency services in the area in which the event occurs, and requires the activation of specific additional procedures and the mobilisation of additional resources to ensure an effective, co-ordinated response.”
An Garda Siochána, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the various local authorities are the relevant bodies responsible for the handling of emergency situations. According to the Office of Emergency Planning any of the following scenarios could be considered a major emergency:
- Severe weather
- Chemical spills
- Transport accidents (air, sea, rail, road)
- Accidents at sea
- Major pollution incidents at sea
- Bomb explosions / suspicious packages
- Nuclear incident
- Influenza pandemic
- Animal disease outbreak
The two key aspects in dealing with any emergency are a coordinated response from the relevant services and rapid access to the area concerned.
However, rapid access depends on specific knowledge on where an incident is taking place and how to get there. At large facilities the main entrance may not be the best place to access a site. This can be either because of blockage caused by traffic or its remoteness from the epicentre of an incident. At a very large disaster many of the responders would, by necessity, come from farther afield and therefore would have little or no local knowledge to aid them with their navigation.
Compounding this issue is that Ireland is bereft of any kind of post code or zip code system apart from few numbered postal districts in Dublin and Cork. Other than using map coordinates there is no national, standardized method of identifying a given property or location.
To address the issue of being able to send first response teams effectively and efficiently to specific geographical location the HSE has incorporated Loc8 Code data into the emergency response plans for Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Kerry and Limerick.
Loc8 Codes not only identify a given property like a regular post code but are accurate enough to identify given points of a property such as alternative entrances. They can also specifically identify geo-locations that would be used in emergency situations such as standby sites for relief vehicles and personnel.
According to Gary Delaney, CEO of Loc8 Code, “When a plan is activated for a particular site. It is usually first responders, such as the fire service, Gardai and ambulances that go straight to the site. In going to a site they may be directed to a back entrance as the front entrance is blocked up so now all those entrances would have Loc8 Codes on them.
“To minimize disruption around the site of a disaster Gardai can be directed to a location with a specific Loc8 Code to manage traffic flows.
“The emergency services are fitted with satnavs and they just punch in the Loc8 Codes and go straight there. The crisis managers don’t have to give complicated instructions to the emergency services to make sure that they go to the correctly specified place.”
“Loc8 Code can do the same thing as post code but can do a lot extra. Ring buoys, standby emergency areas, back and side entrances to facilities are not property.
“Supported by the Irish Water Safety Council we are now starting to put Loc8 Codes on ring buoys for life-saving along waterways.”
For Gary, “It is very significant that the HSE is using Loc8 Codes. A government agency has accepted Loc8 Code as a robust service.”
“That was all done with the support of Enterprise Ireland and everything to do with Loc8 Code is our own IP.”
There is no cost for creating your own Loc8 Code for a given location but for larger organizations who need a different kind of support a licence fee is charged. Loc8 Code also makes money from a point of sale system that enables the accurate delivery of parcels and goods.
The opportunity presently exists for Loc8 Code to be taken up and used for the identification of locations in Ireland as the tendering process for a post code system has been in abeyance for over a year since the last election. To be able to direct emergency responders to a given site with the accuracy and lack of ambiguity that Loc8 offers would certainly be worth considering for nationwide application given the amount of lives that could be saved by such a system.