Authorities urged to fill key vacancy in Munster disaster planning group

AUTHORITIES were urged last night to fill a key position in the disaster planning group for Cork and Kerry, which has been vacant for several weeks.

Alice O’Sullivan stepped down as emergency management officer with the Cork Kerry Joint Emergency Planning Group (CKJEPG) several weeks ago in order to pursue other career interests.

Ms O’Sullivan, who was one of the first emergency management officers employed in the State, provided full-time support to the inter-agency group.

The group comprises representatives from Cork County Council, Cork City Council, the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Garda Síochána and Kerry County Council.

The representatives meet regularly to ensure all the agencies can respond in a coordinated way in the event of a major disaster.

Ms O’Sullivan drew all their inputs together into a regional plan which is widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive in the county.

Cork is home to dozens of pharmachem and petrochemical companies which are regarded as major-accident hazard sites. Bantry Bay Terminals, and ConocoPhillips, Eli Lily, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Pfizer in Cork Harbour are among the most hazardous.

The National Oil Reserves Agency Ltd is based at Centre Park Road.

The emergency plan details 10 Top Tier sites in the harbour area alone — the most hazardous classification for potential accident sites.

While Ms O’Sullivan’s decision to step down has not affected the plan, Fine Gael Cllr Jerry Buttimer said it was crucial that the position be filled urgently.

“The HSE, city and county councils must get together to fill this job,” he said. “I have written to the county manager stating that the position be filled.”

He also plans to raise the issue at a meeting of the Regional Health Forum in Cork on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the HSE South said it was hoped that the position would be filled.

However, she could not give a timeframe.

Under the restructuring of the old health board structure, Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, South Tipperary and Carlow have now become part of the HSE South area.

“This could provide a good opportunity for all the agencies to take a look at the role of emergency management officer for the entire new region,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, a draft external emergency plan to cope with a major incident at Midleton Distilleries in Co Cork, is available to the public for submissions.

The draft plan can be viewed at Midleton garda headquarters, or at ambulance headquarters at the South Ring Road Business Park until November 10.

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