Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Dáil Issues, Dáil Work, Oral Questions

Clare’s Oral questions to the Minister for Communications this week were on the need to examine the human health effects of fracking, and on whether the emergency services are using Eircode.

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will consult with the Concerned Health Professionals of Ireland regarding the human health effects of the process of hydraulic fracturing. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 14th July, 2016.

(10 Received on 8th July, 2016.) [Ref No.: 21508/16]

REPLY

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
As the Deputy will be aware, the EPA has commissioned a research programme into the potential impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction on the environment and human health. It should be noted that the draft Terms of Reference for this programme were the subject of a public consultation process which resulted in an amended and strengthened scope for the programme, including a key recommendation that the potential impacts from Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction on human health be considered as part of the project.

In this regard, the Tender Documents refer specifically to potential health impacts deriving from impacts on the physical natural environment, including exposure to chemicals, vibration, light, noise, and the potential pollution of environmental components such as soils, air and water. The experience in other countries in this regard will also be considered, with a view to making recommendations towards developing a protocol in an island of Ireland context.

However, I would like to stress that any requirement for Health Impact Assessment into Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction would only arise if an application to carry out a development proposing the use of this technology were being considered.

As I have advised previously, no application to engage in Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction has been received in my Department, nor would any such application, if submitted, be considered until the research programme has concluded and there has been time to consider its findings. It is anticipated that a synthesis report concluding on the findings of the research programme to date will be published by the end of this year. Any policy decision will be taken in the context of the objective of achieving a low carbon energy system by 2050.

[Ref No.: 21506/16]

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the emergency services are using the Eircode service as a location tool for emergency vehicles in rural and urban areas. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 14th July, 2016.

(8 Received on 8th July, 2016.)

REPLY

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Denis Naughten)
The Emergency Call Answering Service, which takes emergency calls made to 112 and 999 numbers, has integrated Eircodes into their systems and updated their processes to enable the use of Eircodes when presented by callers.

The National Ambulance Service have also integrated Eircodes into their Computer Aided Dispatch System and this went live in February 2016. The National Ambulance Service consider Eircode to be very important information in responding to emergency calls, particularly rapid identification of the 35% non-unique addresses in the state. Previously this caused significant operational challenges in geographically locating these addresses as some are quite isolated and hard to find without a unique identifier. When contacting the National Emergency Operations Centre, a caller in any part of the country can give the Eircode as part of their address. This Eircode and address will be validated by the Computer Aided Dispatch System and allow the National Emergency Operations Centre call taker to locate the position of the patient’s property along with the location of the ambulance on digital mapping. The dispatcher will then direct the nearest available Ambulance to the correct location facilitating speedier access to care.

In addition, the National Ambulance Aeromedical Service also use Eircodes. Eircode use has proved useful to quickly verify and locate an address / incident location on the shared secure digital mapping system used by the Air Corps, Coast Guard and the Ambulance Service. This is particularly the case in rural areas where many houses have no house number and use the same Locality name in their address. As time is critical, a suitable landing site close to the incident can be selected quickly to co-ordinate a rendezvous between the ambulance and helicopter for the quick transfer of the patient to an appropriate hospital.