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Monday 29 May 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# Emergency
See the Ophelia warnings on TV on Sunday? That was Ireland's emergency broadcasting system in action
It was the first time the system was brought into use in ireland under the 2009 Broadcasting Act.

Image uploaded from iOS

LAST SUNDAY PEOPLE watching television late into the evening may have seen an unfamiliar message appear along the bottom of their screens.

On TV3, the following was broadcast beneath the general programming:

“The National Emergency Coordination Group has issued the following notices.

“A Red Weather Alert is in force for the entire country for tomorrow Monday 16 October. Hurricane For Winds Are Expected in Every County. All Schools, Colleges and Childcare facilities will be closed.

“People are advised to stay at home. No unnecessary travel or other outdoor activities should be undertaken.”

On RTÉ, a shorter but similar message ran across the screen:


Image uploaded from iOS (2)

Around the same time, messages were regularly being broadcast on radio, relaying the same information to anyone who may have been listening.

As you can probably tell, the messages were to warn people ahead of the arrival of Storm Ophelia on Monday.

A status red weather warning had issued for the entire country. Schools were to be closed and public transport was being seriously curtailed. It was important to get the message out to the public.

It was on this basis the the Government decided to engage the emergency broadcast system in order to warn people of the incoming storm.

The Emergency Broadcasting System

The emergency broadcasting system involves all stations with a broadcasting contract being told to relay important messages to the public in the event of an emergency.

Section 61 (3) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 states:

The [Broadcasting] Authority shall have the power to require broadcasting contractors and network providers to co-operate with the relevant public bodies in the dissemination of relevant information to the public in the event of a major emergency.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communications confirmed that the system was engaged late Sunday night and into Monday morning in response to a national status red warning being issued for Storm Ophelia.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) sent the emergency instructions to broadcasters to relay the message every 15 minutes to listeners and viewers.

Sunday’s use was the first time emergency broadcasting system has been brought into use under the terms of the 2009 Broadcasting Act.

In 2008, the then Fianna Fáil Green Party government enacted an emergency broadcast test.

At 4.45am on Tuesday, 17 December 2008 a 30-second simultaneous message was broadcast on television and radio – the first time such a test was done in Ireland.

An article from Silicon Republic explains that the message was originally broadcast from Government Buildings and was fed into four terrestrial broadcasters, regional broadcasters, all national radio channels and the 25 local radio stations.

That test differed from the warning on Sunday in that it was a message broadcast out from a single source. On Sunday, the BAI sent out the announcement to be played on radio and television.

Read: Kinsale’s lighthouse family: ‘Monday was the scariest day of our lives’

Read: Storm Ophelia surfer: ‘The picture makes the ocean look rough… but it wasn’t really that significant’

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