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Busy day as Donegal Civil Defence comes to the ‘rescue’ … several times!

2. A casualty

A casualty being lowered from the Finn Harps stadium during the exercise


It’s not often you get called in to be a forensic scientist, help coordinate a land and river rescue search, deal with a blazing vehicle, learn to use a drone or take part in a search and rescue operation at a collapsed football stadium but for Donegal’s energetic Civil Defence volunteers, this was just another ‘day at the office’.


These unsung heroes from all over the county were certainly put through their paces recently as they took on these various challenges in and around the Stranorlar area as part of their annual County Training Day.


The action and excitement was palpable as the members swung into action from early morning.


The ethos of Civil Defence has remained unchanged since it was founded in 1950 -volunteering in emergencies in communities throughout the county – but the enthusiasm and degree of excitement now attached to their growing and demanding number of duties certainly puts this in a different league to your ordinary pastime!


For the many members of the public that watched the various events during the day long exercises, this was an ‘eye-opening experience’


As part of its work Civil Defence invests heavily in training its members in areas such as swift water and flood first response, search and rescue, auxiliary fire services, radiation monitoring, welfare, manual handling, and radio communications.


They began their exercise with a talk on forensic science from Garda Sergeant Maurice McWalters.


He explained to volunteers the importance of preserving forensic evidence when they go out on a site be that in a gorse fire or going out to look for a missing person and the importance of not contaminating or removing things from the scene. After the theory he set them a practical challenge breaking the participants into teams to find planted items to allow them use what they had learned.


Drumboe Woods and the River Finn provided the ideal location for the boat exercise and land search part of the training. Volunteers had to use GPS Radios and their new incident control vehicle to coordinate their efforts, keep in touch with them and eventually help them find the ‘casualty’.


Their next challenge was to face an emergency incident at the Bus Eireann premises in Stranorlar. It was based on a scenario where a number of party goers had broken into disused vehicles and started fires. To add to the complications, the main fire fighting service was already in action at a structural blaze in Letterkenny so the Civil Defence auxiliary fire fighting units from Carndonagh and Donegal Town had to handle the situation which also included a fuel spill and casualties!


This scenario tested volunteers at a number of operations and procedural levels.


Later that evening the theory and practical use of drones or UAVs in an emergency situation was the subject of a talk delivered by Kevin Houston, Technical Officer and Pat Kennedy, Communications Officer from Civil Defence College, Dublin. Once again the volunteers had to put their theory to the test as they had to take part in an emergency search for a missing child and retrieve casualties from the site of a collapsed Finn Harps stadium site.


The exercise ended with a dinner and presentation of certificates ceremony in Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey.


Donegal’s Civil Defence Officer, Edel Flynn said she was very happy with the exercise and the overall success of the day.


 “When they call on Civil Defence for help, they know they are getting a group of people who are multi-skilled and with huge capability,” she said.

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