Members of Carrick Borough Council have been urged to take on a more active role when it come to coordinating an emergency response.
The recommendation was made at the latest meeting of the Environmental Services Committee during a presentation from emergency planning officer Anthea Carlisle from the Northern Group of councils.
“The situation in Northern Ireland is different to the rest of the UK, where emergency planning is covered by legislation and therefore funding follows,” Ms Carlisle said.
“Councils here have a responsibility under Article 29 of the Local Government Order to take an active role in emergency planning in a non-life threatening situation.
“That could be anything from flooding to heavy snowfall and could mean having to provide buildings for shelter, equipping and supporting staff or coordinating recovery. “
The success of Larne Borough Council in coordinating an emergency response during the extreme weather conditions in spring was highlighted as an example for local authorities to follow.
“The expectation is there for local councils to take the lead with emergency planning, especially given the actions of Larne Council during the blizzards in March and April,” said Ms Carlisle.
“The situation was a humanitarian crisis and eventually developed into an animal welfare crisis. At that time, councillors were able to use their local knowledge to be the eyes and ears on the ground and identify, for example, where vulnerable residents may be experiencing difficulty.
“In Carrick, there is the potential for a number of different emergency situations specific to the area.
“The unfortunate thing is that there are decreasing resources attached to emergency planning in relation to the expectation that is there; by its nature, the emergency situation is often unpredictable. But the important thing is to have these contingencies in place.”
Welcoming the presentation, Councillor David Hilditch recommended that the issue be placed on the appropriate agenda to ensure the local authority comply with responsibilities.
A review of emergency procedures was also suggested by Cllr Noel Williams.