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Waking hours with AA Rescue's Paul Kerr: "Most rescue jobs are flat batteries. People are only doing 10-minute drives to the shops"

Paul Kerr (43) is part of the AA Rescue Service Patrol and has worked for them for 11 years. Born in Dublin, he lives in Belgard, Tallaght, with his wife, Aine, and their two daughters - Lilly (seven) and Jessie (three)


Paul Kerr, part of the AA Rescue Service Patrol

Paul Kerr, part of the AA Rescue Service Patrol

Paul Kerr, part of the AA Rescue Service Patrol

I normally start my day around 6am. We have a system where Jessie, our three-year-old, wakes punctually at 6.30am and joins us in bed. Then the older girl, Lilly, joins us. After that, we all get up. My wife Aine is a social worker, and she is working from home at the moment because she has underlying health issues.

I have Weetabix or porridge. Sometimes I'm out the house at 6.30am and I start work at 7am until 5pm. The AA van is in the driveway and I drive to my starting point, where I sign in on the tablet computer. Then the first job appears.

I'm part of the AA Rescue patrol. At the moment, we are doing free rescue for anyone who is in the health service or anyone vulnerable. They don't have to be members of the AA. It could be a hospital cleaner, a nurse, a doctor, a home-help, someone working in a pharmacy or just someone old. When they call, we're not really getting into all the 'show us your ID'. We are just taking them at their word, and helping them.

I had a lady this morning in her 90s and her car wouldn't start. When I got there, her son was there at the house with her, but he didn't have a clue about what to do. Her car hadn't been started in weeks and it wouldn't even open for her but I was able to help them out and got it going. She wasn't even a member of the AA, but she just rang in.

Last week, we had a nurse from St James's Hospital and she was on her way home from a night shift. The car broke down and there was loads of smoke puffing out the back of it. But she managed to get home. She rang the garage, as it was still covered under the warranty. They said they couldn't do anything for her as they were closed. Then I intervened and contacted the garage owner. Their workshops are still open behind closed doors, as they do all Garda cars and HSE cars. I explained the situation. While the nurse slept, her mother drove the car to the garage and they gave a replacement car, so that she could keep going to work, and they will repair her car.

Today, I got a call from a doctor who was working in the Covid Clinic in the Beacon. His car wouldn't start; it had an electrical fault. He had contacted his garage, which has been opening in emergency situations. They agreed to open to take the car in. But it was parked in an underground car park - that's always a problem, because the roofs are too low for the rescue truck. I went in with a portable booster pack and managed to get the car running, then drove it up into the open-air car park and on to the truck.

At the moment, we are dealing with supermarket shoppers and front-line workers. Basically everyone is just going to the shops, which takes 10 minutes. From my house, we can get to five Dunnes Stores in 10 minutes, and most people are in the same boat. They only drive for five or 10 minutes, so they are not getting enough running in the engines to charge the battery, so all the batteries are going flat. Also, they are leaving their cars for four or five days without driving them, and in some cases, when they are cocooning, they are leaving their cars for even longer.

If you are going to the shops, it's a good idea to start the car 10 or 15 minutes before you go to give the car a bit of a charge, or take the long way to the shops, but stay within the 2km.

When I do a rescue service, I keep my physical distance. I tell the person to put the keys on the ground or on the roof of the car and then I have a look. I have masks too, and I tell them that I am going to put one on. But I don't want to alarm them.

This morning, I was with an elderly man and he hadn't been out in three weeks. I don't know how he had survived. But he was going to Naas General Hospital for an X-ray for an underlying illness. I had to go out and get the car started for him.

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We've been doing a lot of battery sales, too. Batteries normally have a lifespan of five years, but when you leave them like that and they are not constantly being topped up and charged, they need replacing. We sell batteries at the moment and we provide them there and then. If we don't have it, we go off and get it for them. We also fix punctures, as most garages are closed.

Sometimes when I'm doing the interview triage they might tell me that one of their mates tried to fix it and he knows a bit about cars. They might have attempted to change a wheel and broken a bolt. Or they jump-started it and now there is a burning smell because they've done it the wrong way. Most men in their 40s or 50s are apologetic that they haven't tried to fix the car. They might explain that they can't because of health issues. But lads in their 20s, who would be a lot better built than me, won't do that sort of stuff. Most of them don't know how.

I've been with the AA for 11 years and it's very rewarding. There's a good feeling about the job, because people are always happy to see me.

Life is much slower now and everybody has more time than before. When I get home from work, I take the kids for a walk in the park. We've been doing lots of work in the garden and we are enjoying family time. We do our best with the home-schooling. Bedtime for the kids used to be 8pm but now it's much later. We bought a trampoline just before all this started. That was the best buy ever.





The AA provides free rescue service for health service workers and the vulnerable

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