Leisure centres in Mid and East Antrim will be opened to residents during a civic emergency, councillors have been told.
The borough council’s Neighbourhoods and Communities Committee was given an update on the local authority’s emergency planning procedures at a meeting on Tuesday evening.
The committee heard community centres would also be made available. An emergency situation may involve a major road or rail incident or security alert, cyber attack causing “serious” disruption to council services or as the result of severe weather, for example.
It is the role of the council to make buildings available as community assistance centres for people who may have to leave their homes temporarily. The local authority may be asked to open these buildings by the PSNI.
Anne Hardy, corporate and community resilience officer, told the meeting the borough’s leisure centres would be the “first port of call” for residents displaced during an incident.
“With a range agencies involved, co-ordination is critical,” the officer said. She also underlined the importance of being aware of the “sensitivities of an emergency situation to the people involved” and stressed that “being prepared is key”.
“In Mid and East Antrim, there are four groups who implement their own community resilience plan,” she added.
In Ahoghill, Glenravel, Broughshane and Toome Road, Ballymena, Community Resilience Groups have been working with statutory agencies to reduce the likelihood and impact of flooding.
The council says “where an area has a high risk of flooding or severe weather a Community Resilience Group can make a big difference in a community by being prepared”. Sandbag stores are stocked by Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Rivers or DfI Roads.
Knockagh Ulster Unionist Alderman Andrew Wilson asked if funding is set aside by the council on an annual basis for emergency planning. He also asked if emergency planning would be implemented during Thursday’s public sector strikes.
Patricia Allen, head of public protection, health and well-being, confirmed the council does have a budget for emergency planning which covers “on-call arrangements” for a member of staff to open a building.
She added: “If we declared an emergency, there would be approved funding which could be drawn down.”
Councillors also heard statutory agencies including health trusts, PSNI, ambulance service, DfI Roads and others have been meeting in preparation for Thursday’s public sector strikes (January 18).
The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) is warning of “widespread disruption” to services including gritting, MOTs, driving tests and response to flood emergencies.
DfI says: “If the current weather warnings remain in place, we would advise people to avoid travel, if possible. Where people need to travel, drivers and other road users will need to take particular care on Thursday and Friday given the potential for icy conditions and ongoing disruption to gritting.”