Sunday 17 December 2017

Emergency crews are 'ship shape' if disaster strikes

A Coast Guard helicopter airlifts casualties. Photo: Patrick Browne
A Coast Guard helicopter airlifts casualties. Photo: Patrick Browne
A helicopter winchman and 'casualties' aboard the LE Eithne. Photo: Patrick Browne

Conor Kane

WE hope to never see them in action but our emergency services look ready to respond to a "nightmare" scenario.

Nine different agencies with around 180 personnel between them worked together at Waterford Airport and off the coast of Hook Head, to assess how well they would respond to a major disaster.

According to Declan Geoghegan, operations manager with the Irish Coast Guard, the "nightmare" scenario would be a stricken passenger ferry with about 1,000 people on board and 100 miles offshore.

For yesterday's simulation, the naval service's LE Eithne was a ferry that had sustained an explosion in its engine room, with 50 army personnel from James Stephens Barracks in Kilkenny acting as casualties.

The agencies who took part in the exercise included the Irish Coast Guard, Civil Defence, RNLI, Air Corps, Army, Naval Service, National Ambulance Service, An Garda Siochana, and the Waterford Fire Services.

Mr Geoghegan explained: "It's to see how all the agencies work together in the event of a major incident, which we're replicating today,"

The exercise included flying the HSE's marine ambulance service out to the scene of the "stricken" vessel to triage the passengers and assess who could be treated on board and who would need to be airlifted back to land.

Waterford Airport chief-executive Desmond O'Flynn said marine rescue was "part of a tradition" at the airport, which has hosted the services since the mid-1990s.

The services will meet in a few weeks to assess the success of the training operation.

"The more training you do, the better you get, but also the luckier you get," Mr Geoghegan added.

Irish Independent

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