Ballyshannon takes control of national ambulance calls in back-up plan

Date Published : May 24th, 2020    Published By : admin

A fire at the HSE Primary Care Centre in Tallaght yesterday saw the buildings evacuated and all NEOC operations diverted to Ballyshannon.

The National Ambulance Service NEOC, National Emergency Operations Centre is based at the Rivers Building, Tallaght and was one of the buildings evacuated as a result of the fire. Four units of the fire brigade attended. Dublin Fire Brigade said the fire was located in a communal outdoor seating area between two buildings.

By Declan Keogh
At approximately 12.30pm yesterday the internal fire alarms within the Rivers Building were activated and normal operating procedures in relation to a fire alarm activation was put in place. Smoke was established in the building and the location identified. Dublin Fire Brigade arrived on the scene at approximately 12.45pm.

A total of 22 ambulance control staff and 8 staff in the COVID-19 administration centre were on the NEOC premises at the time and all evacuated.

NEOC Tallaght

Due to the evacuation, the NEOC in Tallaght shut-down and it's emergency back-up plan was activated.

The NEOC in Tallaght is one of two centres in the country, the second one is based in the North West Region in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal which is a fully operational NEOC. In the event of an emergency, both centres back-up each other and are resilient and independent to take control of each other until the second control centre regains operation.

As a result of the emergency evacuation yesterday, Management at the National Ambulance Service activated its NEOC Back-Up Plan which saw the Ballyshannon centre taking the brunt of all calls to the NAS in the entire country.

NEOC Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal

Martin Dunne, Director of the National Ambulance Service spoke to me on  and outlined what action and plans were put in place because of the fire. Listen on the link below, on our SoundCloud or 'Listen in Browser'.

ET 24.05.2020 NAS Martin Dunne NEOC Evac

“We have contingency plans in place to make sure that service continuity is maintained. There is a two-pronged approach. We immediately switched over onto Ballyshannon which is our sister NEOC center and it went fully live and took all the calls for the rest of Ireland from Ballyshannon. Parallel to that, we have a local control centre in Tallaght Hospital and we have sophisticated control boxes which allow us to set-up a temporary control room within Tallaght hospital itself which allowed us to re-direct some of the calls back into Tallaght Hospital and we could take the calls there and dispatch ambulances along with the Ballyshannon centre."

Martin Dunne, Director, National Ambulance Service. Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times

Procedures are in place between the NAS and the Department of Defence and the Department of Transport to fly staff between control centres in Dublin and Donegal in the event of an emergency shut-down such as yesterdays one.

A total of twelve ambulance controllers and operators were transferred by an Irish Air Corps helicopter and an Irish Coast Guard helicopter from Tallaght to Ballyshannon yesterday. Additional transport flights were also carried out this morning too. The helicopters landed at Finar Camp, outside Ballyshannon, Co, Donegal.

Finner Camp , Co. Donegal. Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times

“We’ve flown more staff up there this morning and flown some staff back. During the fire evacuation and the change-over from Tallaght to Ballyshannon, service was maintained and no calls were missed or dropped by the National Ambulance Service."

Cleaning companies are currently working in the buildings to ventilate and deep-clean the centre and Martin Dunne said its is hoped normal operations will resume tomorrow morning. "We are very hopeful that Tallaght will be back operational by 7am tomorrow morning. There was no damage done, it was just smoke in the building, we have companies sin at the moment giving it a deep clean and making sure its okay, air quality control and to check to endure the air quality is safe."

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