LARNE Borough Council has given a lead in formulating the emergency response to last weekend’s snow storms.
Officials activated the action plan last Friday, after it received numerous requests for assistance from people who were stranded by the heavy snow and in need of assistance.
A dedicated council phone number was set up for people to contact in an emergency, but it was not until Saturday morning that the true scale of the problem became apparent.
An emergency response team was convened at Smiley Buildings on Saturday evening, in a bid to help identify of vulnerable residents and to work in partnership with the community and other local agencies, including the PSNI, NI Electricity and Roads Service, to co-ordinate the response and provide assistance to those in need.
The team worked diligently to determine who was most at risk over the weekend, as power supplies went down and dozens of residents were left totally cut off due to large snow drifts.
A distribution point was set up at the marina in Glenarm, where rescue workers began the task of getting food packs to isolated homes in the Feystown area.
On Monday, police and Coastguard helicopters – using Glenarm Castle as a base – airdropped a range of supplies to a number of homes that were inaccessible by road.
Red Cross volunteers were also deployed in 4x4 vehicles to deliver food parcels in the area. Volunteer Jock Magowan said: “The snow in the Glenarm area was extremely deep and hard to walk through. We were sinking into drifts up to the chest.
“The PSNI’s search and rescue teams were using snow shoes to walk into the worst areas. I brought a food parcel to a man who hadn’t seen a soul for four days and whose electricity had only just come back on.”
Chief executive of Larne Council, Geraldine McGahey said: “We were concerned that this unusually persistent harsh weather was placing vulnerable people at risk. The procedures we have in place are aimed at ensuring those at risk are identified and any help needed is coordinated with the relevant services. Our team has also been able to extend its operations to those in the Moyle Council area.”
“I would wish to pay tribute to council staff who responded quickly and efficiently to the emergency planning team and recognise the invaluable contribution made by our local councillors, particularly Larne Mayor Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna, whose local knowledge assisted greatly in directing help where it was most needed.”
The council helpline number (07850181262) is still in operation for vulnerable citizens to call for non-emergency guidance, assistance and information, or for those in the community to alert the council to any vulnerable family members, friends or neighbours in potential need.