Irish Government reveals ability to take over broadcast media for emergencies

16 Dec 2008

The Irish Government this morning demonstrated the ability to simultaneously broadcast emergency messages to all its citizens via TV and radio.

This morning at 4.45 am, the Department of Communications carried out a structured exercise in the broadcast of emergency services. This exercise was part of the Government’s commitment to emergency planning.

All television and radio channels carried a 30-second engineering test simultaneously across Ireland.

The four terrestrial broadcasters, regional broadcasters, all national radio channels and the 25 local radio stations carried an announcement indicating that an engineering test was being conducted and that normal programming would resume at the end of the test.

The exercise was designed to simulate an urgent requirement of the Government and/or the emergency services to have access to radio and TV broadcast platforms in a short time scale in order to broadcast to the public.

The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning considers that in the event of an emergency, broadcast media will be the most efficient vehicle for the transmission of emergency messages to the public.

This was the first time such an exercise had ever been carried out in Ireland. It was also the first time that Government Buildings has been used to distribute a message to virtually every broadcast entity in the State.

The Department of Communications said the timing of the exercise was deliberately chosen to test the response times of the broadcasters.

The experiment was conducted in conjunction with the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and Oireachtas TV.

Most stations are unmanned in the early hours of the morning and it was considered an excellent simulation of an emergency situation where stations would have to react quickly in unusual circumstances.

“I am pleased that this morning’s exercise went without a hitch,” the Minister Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD, said.

“Contact was made with the broadcasters in question early this morning and they had very little time to co-ordinate this national broadcast response.

“The exercise was designed to test the ability of the broadcast networks to work together and to have available a critical infrastructure that will allow emergency messages to be broadcast to the public should the need arise. They did this quickly and effectively,” he said.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: RTÉ mast (Photo owned by Simon Hepworth CC)

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years