Forum News – February 2015

3 March 2015

Civil Defence Forum Meeting – Wednesday 25th February 2015

  1. Data Protection & Civil Defence

Assistant Principal Officer, Aidan Dillon briefed the Forum on the issue of Data Protection.

Civil Defence is obliged as an organisation that collects and maintains personal data to comply with Data Protection legislation (Data Protection Act 1988 and Data Protection amendment Act 2003).

Legislation dictates that Civil Defence, being an organisation that holds information about its members must:

  • get and use the information fairly;
  • keep it for only one or more clearly stated and lawful purposes;
  • use and make known this information only in ways that are in keeping with these purposes;
  • keep the information safe;
  • make sure that the information is factually correct, complete and up-to-date;
  • make sure that there is enough information – but not too much – and that it is relevant;
  • keep the information for no longer than is needed for the reason stated; and
  • give the individual a copy of their personal information when they ask for it.

Information on Civil Defence members is held centrally by the Civil Defence Branch while some personal data is also held locally effectively under the control of the local authority. Personal data is acquired/maintained in a number of ways:

  • Enrolment Forms;
  • The Volunteer Register, Training and Operations Database;
  • Garda Vetting Applications;
  • Patient Care Report Forms, and
  • Occasionally information about vulnerable persons is disclosed locally to Civil Defence by the Principal Response Agencies such as the Gardai or HSE.

A recent Department of Defence Internal Audit on Data Protection has made the following recommendation to the Civil Defence Branch:

The relationship between Civil Defence Branch and the various Local Authorities is unique in nature and there is considerable “cross-over” in relation to the ownership, processing and custody of personal data. Because of this unique relationship, the Audit Team believes that there is a requirement to formalise precisely where the boundaries of ownership lie and how personal data is shared. The Audit Team recommends that this formalisation is achieved through the drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Civil Defence Branch and the Local Authorities.

Civil Defence Branch is preparing a draft Memorandum of Understanding for issue to local authorities.

  1. Radio Communications & Civil Defence

Communications Officer, Pat Kennedy delivered a presentation to the Forum on Civil Defence Communications including recent developments such as GPS equipped and TETRA Radio Systems.

The Forum received a comprehensive briefing on the four Communications systems operated by Civil Defence, namely, VHF Radio, UHF Radio, Marine VHF Radio, Tetra Digital Radio.

Mr Kennedy outlined three essentials for the delivery of effective Communications:

(i) Suitable Radio Communications Equipment

(ii) Trained Personnel

(iii) Standard Radio Operating Procedures

Recent Communications developments include:

(i) GPS UHF Radio System

(ii) TETRA Digital Radio System

GPS Radio System:

Introduced in 2012, the GPS Radio system is proving hugely effective in ensuring that Missing Person Searches are conducted in a coordinated and professional manner.

TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) Digital Radio System:

Introduced in 2013, the TETRA equipment to date has been distributed to a number of strategic locations, on a regional basis, which allows for easy distribution to adjacent counties in the event of an emergency. The equipment is comprised of one mobile and three handsets. Plans are in place for a TETRA System expansion countrywide in 2015, increasing the stock of TETRA Equipment units.

  1. Social Media & Civil Defence

Assistant Principal Officer, Aidan Dillon briefed the Forum on developments in the area of Social Media.

Mr Dillon distributed a copy of the Civil Defence Social Media Policy which issued to each Local Authority area in January 2015. Mr Dillon also distributed a discussion paper on the subject of Social Media & Civil Defence.

Executive Officer, Martina Byrne who was centrally involved in upgrading of the website and currently acts as the social media administrator for the Civil Defence Branch showcased the upgraded website to the Forum. The Forum was informed that the website has been well received since the recent upgraded version went live in late 2014.

In recognition of the potential for promoting Civil Defence through Social Media, Civil Defence currently operates a Twitter Account.

The Branch is aware that there are a number of local authority based units countrywide with Facebook Accounts. Given that many Civil Defence activities are outside of working hours it makes it difficult to oversee the use of social media insofar as it relates to or purports to represent the organisation. To date, there is no evidence of misuse of these accounts. The Forum is satisfied that properly governed Social Media is a good promotional tool for Civil Defence. The Forum also emphasised the need for alignment on the issue of Social Media and agreed administrative controls need to be put in place between Civil Defence and the Local Authorities.

  1. AOB

The issue of ‘Instructor Fees’ has been raised with the Department of Defence recently . The matter is under active consideration.

A follow-up Missing Person Search Exercise to the one held in Cork in November 2014 has been scheduled for Saturday 7th March in Dublin. Lessons learned from the November exercise will be taken on board for the upcoming exercise with the main focus on improving awareness and on ensuring commonality of approach during missing person searches countrywide.

A second Avian Influenza Exercise, as a follow-up to the one held recently in Carrick-on-Shannon, will be held on Lough Derg at Killaloe on Saturday 14th March.

Forum members passed on their condolences to Minister of State, Paul Kehoe on the recent death of his father, Myles.

The Forum made a presentation to the Chairman, Bill Smith on the occasion of his impending retirement.  Forum members wished the Chairman a happy retirement and thanked him for his contribution to the Forum and the Civil Defence organisation.


  1. Date of Next Forum Meeting        

The next Forum meeting will be scheduled in due course by the incoming Chairman.