Emergency plan

Abdul Hai made this Freedom of Information request to Belfast City Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Belfast City Council,

Can you publish the latest copy of your emergency plan?

Yours faithfully,

Abdul Hai

Abdul Hai left an annotation ()

Former Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay said on LBC with Andrew Castle today (June 25) that he will be asking his local council for a copy of their emergency plan under FOI. He said that everyone should do the same.

David Neill (Emergency Planning), Belfast City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Hai

Re: Freedom of Information Request

Thank you for your email dated 29 June 2017 requesting a copy of Belfast City Council’s current Emergency Plan.

I can confirm that the Council holds the information you have requested. It has decided that it can be disclosed, subject to the redaction of the contact details for the Emergency Co-ordination Officer’s mobile phone and the Emergency Co-ordination Centre. Accordingly, a copy of the current redacted version of our Emergency Plan is attached.

I shall now explain our reasons for withholding the contact details referred to above. Section 38(1)(a) and (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 permits a public authority not to disclose information if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, endanger the health or safety of any individual. In the event of an emergency it is important that these critical communication lines are only accessed by those responsible for responding to the emergency situation. These contact details are not routinely disclosed to the public, who instead are given access to other contact points as set out in our Emergency Plan. The reason for this is to ensure that these critical communication lines are not used by unnecessary users as this would put at risk the health and safety of individuals affected by the emergency. The Council contends that there is a real, serious and significant risk that the disclosure of the contact details referred to above would endanger the health and/or safety of individuals. The Council has, therefore, decided that this information is exempt from disclosure under Section 38(1)(a) and (b) of the Act.

Where the Council decides that the information requested is exempt from disclosure under Section 38(1)(a) and (b) of the Freedom of Information Act, it must then apply what is known as a public interest test. This requires the Council to decide whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

In applying the public interest test the Council gave careful consideration to the arguments for and against disclosure. The arguments which were taken into account in favour of disclosure were:

• that it would allow for more informed debate on the issue of emergency planning;
• that it would promote accountability and transparency in relation to the Council’s decisions and its spending of public money on this issue;
• that it would assist the public to understand and challenge the Council’s decisions on this issue;
• the specific circumstances of the case and the content of the information requested in relation to those circumstances;
• the age of the information;
• the timing of the request;
• whether any of the information was already in the public domain; and
• the impact of disclosure upon individuals and the wider public.

The arguments which were taken into account in favour of maintaining the exemption were:

• the specific circumstances of the case and the content of the information requested in relation to those circumstances;
• the age of the information;
• the timing of the request;
• the amount of information already in the public domain;
• the impact of disclosure upon individuals and the wider public; and
• the adverse affect on the health and/or safety of any individual affected by an emergency.

Essentially, the Council balanced the need for openness and accountability against the need to ensure the health and safety of individuals affected by an emergency is not endangered. Having taken into account the arguments for and against disclosure the Council has decided that, on balance, in this case the public interest in maintaining the exemption provided under Section 38(1)(a) and (b) of the Freedom of Information Act outweighs that in favour of disclosure. The Council concluded that the possible benefits of disclosure are outweighed by:

• the fact the information requested is recent and still has currency;
• the real and significant risk of endangering the health and/or safety of individuals;
• the overriding public interest is ensuring the health and safety of individuals is not put at risk; and
• that there are no exceptional circumstances or overriding public interest which would warrant disclosure.

Moreover, the disclosure of the remainder of the Emergency Plan ensures that the Council meets its statutory obligations to promote accountability and transparency for its decisions and in the spending of public money in connection with this service and to encourage informed public participation in the debate about this issue.

Please note that if this information is to be published it should be attributed to being Belfast City Council’s response to a freedom of information request. For any media queries, you should contact Corporate Communications, Belfast City Council.

If you are dissatisfied with how the Council handled your request for information, you have the right to request that the Council formally review this decision. If you do wish to do so, please write to the Records Manager, Chief Executive’s Department, Belfast City Council, City Hall, Belfast, BT1 5GS.

Should you remain dissatisfied following the Council’s internal review, you can seek an independent review from the Information Commissioner. Requests for an independent review should be made in writing to: The Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF. However I would advise that the Information Commissioner has indicated that a review will not be undertaken unless the Council has first had an opportunity to re-consider its decision.

Yours sincerely,

Davy Neill MBE
Emergency Co-ordination Officer
Belfast City Council

[Enc.]
 
City & Neighbourhood Services Department | Belfast City Council | The Cecil Ward Building | 4-10 Linenhall Street | Belfast | BT2 8BP | Email: [email address] | Tel: 028 9027 0428 | Web: www.belfastcity.gov.uk

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Dear David Neill (Emergency Planning),

Thank you for taking the time to explain your decision.

Yours sincerely,

Abdul Hai