'Comms Alert' Successful As Government Tests Emergency Response

'Silence is golden' as the saying goes, and it certainly was this week when the Government effectively 'seized control' of Irish national airwaves.

It happened on Tuesday, but few would have noticed as the 'broadcast' was at 4.45am and consisted of 30 seconds of nothing more than silence.

It was all part of a simulation on giving urgent messages to the nation.

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

Thirty seconds of dead air followed.

The exercise, carried out by the Department of Communications, simulated the need of the government or emergency services to gain access to radio and television services at short notice in order to broadcast a message to the nation.

It is the first time such an exercise has taken place in Ireland, and was carried out in conjunction with the Office of Emergency Planning at the Department of Defence.

Broadcasters got a call out of the blue at about 2.30am and were told the infrastructure was in place to make a broadcast at 4.45am.

The trial was held when most stations are unmanned to simulate an emergency, with stations expected to react quickly in unusual circumstances. The response time of each station was monitored.

As well as being the first time in the history of the State the test has been carried out, it is also the only time Government Buildings has been used to send a message to every broadcaster in the country. Follow-up simulations are expected.

"I am pleased that this morning's exercise went without a hitch," Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said.

"Contact was made with the broadcasters 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. This they did quickly and effectively."


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