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Severe Weather Event Management System (SWEMS)

Severe Weather Event Management System (SWEMS)

Date: 04 Jul 2022

Galway County Council develop and pilot new system to aid real-time decision making during weather and emergency events.

A new system is being rolled out by Galway County Council to better utilise existing technology in response to severe weather events.

to capture and analyse information on severe weather events as they happen, allowing for real-time decision making and a reduction in incident response times.

The Severe Weather Event Management System (SWEMS) is the first of its kind in Ireland and was developed on the back of existing council resources.

In 2019 as part of the drafting of the Severe Weather Management Plan Galway County Councils Major Emergency Development Committee (MEDC) initiated a review of how existing spatial technology solutions could be better utilised in the management of, and response to, severe weather events. The adopted plan included a new Geographical information System (GIS) based Severe Weather Event Management System (SWEMS).

The Councils Fire Service and its Geographical Information Systems section were assigned the task of designing, developing, and implementing the system with the overall aims of facilitating the Council in collecting, capturing, analysing, and disseminating information on emergency events, particularly severe weather and wildfire events as they happen for the purposes of aiding accurate evidence based real-time decision making by all stakeholders and ultimately reducing risk to the citizens of county Galway. The outcome of this project has been the successful development and implementation of SWEMS which has been used to date by the Council in regard several separate weather events.

The system allows for the capture and analyse of the impacts of weather events and emergencies as they happen by local authority staff the ground. Incidents reported by the public in relation to severe weather emergencies can also be recorded by the council.

Data gathered can be shared simultaneously with other emergency services and teams allowing for real-time decision making and a reduction in incident response times. 

Members of the public can be informed of risk in their local area via live updates through social media and on the Map Alerter system.

Paul Duffy, Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Galway County Council, said the new system will significantly improve management of severe weather events - "Up to now there has been a lag getting information and we found we were behind the curve straight away. This system means all our information is there in front of us. From an organisational point of view, hours could be saved during severe weather and wildfire events."

The success of the project has generated interest from other Council Fire Services. SWEMS has been presented to the national major emergency management officer’s group and funding and support for a shared service based inter-county trial Westmeath and Wicklow County Councils have been provided by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM). The SWEMS pilot will also include the recording of wildfire incidents including drone surveys and mapping.

Links with the WIRE App

Galway County Council are also working with CARO to link the relevant data collected on SWEMS  to the WIRE App. Other weather-related incidences that do not require an emergency/immediate response directly will be gathered by Council staff using the WIRE App. This will assist the council with identifying areas of increased climate risk and adaptation planning.