By Humphrey Carter
THE Balearic government's crisis management committee yesterday praised the response of the general public during last week's winter storm but admitted that they have learnt some important lessons.

The 112 emergency centre handled a record 21.354 calls between January 24 and 29, double the normal number.
Balearic Interior Minister, José María Rodríguez, said at yesterday's emergency operation de-briefing that the emergency services' management of the winter crisis was a “success, especially with regards to manor in which the general public responded to our warnings and advice.”

The only two major incidents involved the rescue of two mothers who had taken their kids to see the snow in Galilea and the coach which got stuck on black ice in Valldemossa.

The freezing winter storm was in fact the first chance the Balearic authorities have had to put their new emergency operation, which involved over 1'000 people in Majorca and Minorca, to the test.

The Minister said that, fortunately, rainfall was relatively low, it did not exceed 20 litres per square metre, which prevented heavy snow falls near sea level and deep drifts in the mountains which could have seriously complicated the situation.

The Minister added that never before has the Balearics had to cope with an emergency situation which lasted so long - the region was on weather alert one from the morning of Monday January 24 to the afternoon of Sunday, January 31.

Emergency department director general Joan Pol explained that during the six-day operation, four crisis meetings were held with representatives from the various security and emergency service while fresh information of the situation on the roads was gathered every 15 to 20 minutes.

He said that a little over 700 tons of salt was used on the roads “which, coupled with the sensible and responsible response form the public, helped to prevent any major accidents.” The bulk of the incidents were urban and involved some household overloading their electricity circuit and chimnies getting blocked.
Last weekend, a total of 4.000 people did head up to the snow, despite the government's advise not to, but Joan Pol said the figures, 1'000 on Saturday and 3'00 on the Sunday, were manageable for the security services.

He did however add that last Wednesday, the day when the storm reached its peak, traffic on the roads dropped by a third.
Nevertheless, Rodríguez said important lessons have been learnt.
Crisis management teams will be looking at how they can better run public transport systems in the event of another winter storm, in particular school transport which the government was forced to postpone across the island despite some areas being relatively unaffected by the snow.

Pol explained that of the 21.354 calls handled by the 112 emergency centre, 2.061 were from members of the public wishing to know the very latest road and traffic information.

The busiest time for the call centre, where the number of staff had be significantly increased, was between 7am and 10am, with most calls coming from people either heading to work or taking kids to school, and he said that all calls were asnwered between two and 20 seconds.


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