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Displaying items by tag: Water Safety Ireland

Ahead of the August Bank Holiday weekend, the Irish Coast Guard, RNLI, Water Safety Ireland and Met Éireann are appealing for people to take care when they are on or near the water.

With many people continuing to enjoy the summer holidays or planning a break this weekend, the organisations are asking people to be particularly mindful to check weather forecasts and tide times before venturing out and if planning on entering the sea to know how to spot and safely handle a rip current.

If planning other activities such as paddleboarding, the request is to always go prepared so the water can be enjoyed safely.

Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting in Met Éireann says: “While there will be some warm sunny spells, the weather will be mixed this weekend. For a detailed forecast for 10-days ahead for over 1,000 locations around Ireland including the beaches, lakes and mountains, go to met.ie.”

If heading out on the water or visiting the coast:

  • Always check the weather and tide times.
  • Carry a reliable means of raising the alarm such as a VHF radio or personal locator beacon (PLB) and a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch as back-up.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you are due back.
  • If going afloat, wear a lifejacket or suitable personal flotation device for your activity.
  • Never ever swim alone. Only swim in areas that are supervised by lifeguards or in areas with which you are familiar.
  • Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Kevin Rahill, RNLI water safety lead said: “This weekend will see spring tides so we would encourage anyone planning a walk or activity near the coast to check tide times before venturing out to avoid becoming cut off.

“The RNLI is also urging everyone to remember to ‘Float to Live’ if they do get into trouble in the water this weekend. To do this: Lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety. In a coastal emergency, call 999 or 112 for the coastguard.”

Irish Coast Guard operations manager Micheál O’Toole said: “We wish to thank the public for their cooperation and support and for the responsible approach displayed when participating in any water based or coastal activity.

“We would also advise people to avoid bringing inflatable toys to the beach, rivers or lake side as users can easily get swept away from the shore.”

Water Safety Ireland’s acting chief executive Roger Sweeney said: “Swimmers should watch out for rip currents which are one of the most dangerous natural hazards at Irish beaches.

“The strong channel of water running from a beach back to sea can be difficult to spot so the best way to avoid them is to swim at lifeguarded beaches between the red and yellow flags. If caught in one, don’t exhaust yourself trying to swim against it. Swim parallel to the beach until free of the narrow current and then head for shore.”

Published in Water Safety

A €6m revamp of Lahinch Leisure Centre in Co Clare, which includes a dedicated water safety centre, has been officially unveiled today (Monday 18 July) by Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys.
 
The newly redesigned family-friendly, state-of-the-art facility features a 25-metre heated swimming pool, learner pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi besides the new Water Safety Ireland rescue centre.

A two-storey fitness gym overlooks the promenade and Liscannor Bay, with membership drawn from all over North and West Clare already exceeding 1,400 people.
 
Cllr Tony O’Brien, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, praised the wider community for its “steadfast support” for the development and he expressed his hope that future developments on site will further add to the amenities on offer.
 
“Today is about the future and a fantastic modern facility that is once again ready to serve another generation of residents and visitors to Lahinch, and the entire North and West Clare area,” he added.
 
Shane Talty, member of the board of Lahinch Leisure Centre and Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District said the upgrade is the first significant development on the site in more than 25 years and marks the beginning of a new phase of life for the historic community facility.
 
“The first development on this site was in 1963, when a forward thinking, progressive Community Development Association oversaw the provision of a dance hall and outdoor swimming pool,” Cllr Talty said. “That centre operated for the next 30 years, until the mid-1990s when a large-scale renovation saw the pool modernised and enclosed and an aquarium developed.”

Cllr Tony O’Brien, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council with Eoin Conlan, manager of Lahinch Lesiure Centre and Heather Humphreys, Minister for Rural and Community Development at the opening of the €6m revamp of the leisure centre | Credit: Eamon WardCllr Tony O’Brien, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council with Eoin Conlan, manager of Lahinch Lesiure Centre and Heather Humphreys, Minister for Rural and Community Development at the opening of the €6m revamp of the leisure centre | Credit: Eamon Ward
 
He continued: “The revamped facility opened in 1996 and served the community up to its closure in Dec 2019. By then, the structures had become dilapidated, the roof was badly leaking, and the pool plant room had reached end of life. Only the trojan efforts of the then Manager Joe Garrihy, his staff, the board chair Denis Creedon and the members somehow managed to keep the centre open for as long as they had.”
 
Cllr Talty noted that planning has already commenced regarding the proposed repurposing the community hall within the building and that further funding will be sought.
 
“Funding received under the department’s RRDF fund has also helped deliver new on-site public toilets as well as a new rescue centre developed by Clare Water Safety with our support in providing the required lands,” he added.

“We have been delighted with this model of collaboration between the Local Authority, Clare Water Safety and ourselves in making the centre a real hub for the community.”
 
Through funding support from the SEAI, the facility is a Nearly Zero-Energy Building (NZEB) delivering approximately €100,000 savings in annual energy costs. Additional funding from LEADER programme has delivered energy upgrade works to further heighten the environmental sustainability of the centre.
 
JADA Construction Ltd and Kelly RAC were the main contractors for the development while the design team comprised McKenna Consulting Engineers, Tom McNamara & Partners and Tipperary Energy Agency.

The facility upgrade has been funded by the Department of Community & Rural Development through the RRDF, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the TOMAR Trust, LEADER, Clare County Council and local fundraising. See www.lahinchleisurecentre.ie for further information.

Published in Water Safety

As the June bank holiday approaches, the Irish Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland have issued another joint water safety appeal — this time for the many thousands of people expected to take advantage of the break this weekend and visit the coast and inland waters.

The organisations are asking people to check that they have the correct equipment they need to enjoy their activities and that they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Water-based activities are safe and enjoyable with the right equipment. However, inflatable toys are not suitable for use in open water, including at the seaside, inland waters and rivers.

Inflatable toys, including dinghies and air mattresses, can quickly blow out to open waters or capsize. They should not be used in any open waters.

The three organisations have issued a joint water safety appeal as the summer months traditionally bring an increase in callouts for the search and rescue organisations, including coastguard and lifeboat crews, many of whom are volunteers.

As the popularity of kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding increases, the safety advice for these activities includes:

  • Always have a means for calling for help and make sure you can access it when you are out on the water
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return
  • Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid
  • Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off
  • Paddle in a group where possible. If you're exploring somewhere new, seek knowledge from experienced practitioners in the area

“We want everybody to enjoy our waters but please pay attention to your own safety,” Irish Coast Guard operations manager Micheál O’Toole said.

“Never, ever swim alone and if you are using a boat or kayak, please ensure that if an emergency arises and you need assistance, that you are capable of contacting the coastguard with a marine VHF radio, PLB or EPIRB. Never rely on a mobile phone alone.”

RNLI water safety delivery support Lisa Hollingum said: “It’s great to see people getting out and taking part in water based activities this summer but it’s important to know what to do if something unexpected happens.

“There are so many great products on the market for water safety and something as simple as a water proof pouch to hold a means of communication for when you go out on a paddle board or kayak, can make all the difference.”

Water Safety Ireland’s acting chief executive Roger Sweeney added: “This weekend, the lifeguards trained and assessed by Water Safety Ireland begin summer patrols at local authority run bathing areas.

“Last year, they rescued 473 people and provided first aid to 6,700 people. This weekend, let them be there for you. Bring your loved ones to any of the lifeguarded waterways listed at watersafety.ie.”

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 999 or 112 or use VHF Channel 16 and ask for the coastguard.

Published in Water Safety

In the lead up to the May bank holiday weekend, the Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland have issued a joint water safety appeal, asking people to take some basic steps to stay safe, as incidents continue to occur as the weather improves and more people visit waterways nationwide or participate in coastal and inland aquatic activities.

There has been a seasonable increase in the overall number of search and rescue incidents with activity levels similar to recent years. The three organisations are drawing particular attention to the need for people involved in sea kayaking and similar activities, to receive proper training before going on the water, to carry a reliable means of calling for help and to tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back.

Water temperatures remain cold even at this time of year and Cold Water Shock can affect everyone. The three organisations advise everyone intending to take part in any water-based activity or coastal walks to take some basic steps in advance to keep safe.

If heading out on the water or visiting the coast:

  • Always check the weather and tides
  • Carry a reliable means of raising the alarm (i.e. VHF radio or phone)
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back
  • Wear a suitable Personal Flotation Device on the water
  • Watch out for incoming tides to avoid getting cut off. With High Tides ranging from midday to early evening depending on the part of the coast, it is important that people check before walking along the coast.

If you are swimming:

  • Water temperatures are still cold at this time of the year, consider wearing a wetsuit to stay warm
  • Acclimatise slowly
  • Wear a bright swimming cap and consider a tow float to increase your visibility
  • Never swim alone and always ensure that your activity is being monitored by a colleague

Micheál O’Toole, Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager, said: ‘It is important to have a means of communication if engaging in any water-based activity. When boating, carry a VHF radio, backed up by flares, PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). Never solely rely on a mobile phone.’

He added ‘that prior to undertaking any boat activity please ensure that equipment is fit for purpose and that a shore-based contact is aware of your plans and estimated duration.’

Kevin Rahill, RNLI Water Safety Lead, added: ‘Many people will be taking to the water for the first time this year and this is a good time to think about checking your equipment, especially your lifejacket. We recommend that people get their lifejackets serviced annually. Not everyone intends to end up in the water. If you fall in unexpectedly, remember to ‘Float to Live’ – lie on your back and spread your arms and legs, gently moving them to keep afloat. Keep floating until you feel your breath coming back before calling for help or swimming ashore if nearby.

‘For visitors and people new to our shores, the RNLI has a range of translated safety resources in many languages which are available to download here: https://rnli.org/safety/multi-lingual-resources

Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland’s Acting CEO, cautions: ‘Muscle cooling due to hypothermia is a factor in many drownings. Swim within your depth and keep it short as warm air does not mean warm water, especially in May. Children require close, constant, uninterrupted supervision. When shoreline walking, beware of being stranded by incoming tides. Many recently arrived Ukrainians have never visited a beach and are unfamiliar with such stranding risks. Please help to keep them safe by reaching out in your community with the translated advice at; www.watersafety.ie/ukraine ’

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble; Dial 112 or use VHF radio CH 16 and ask for the Coast Guard.

Published in Coastguard

The Chief Executive of Water Safety Ireland, the State organisation headquartered in Galway, has retired. John Leech had been CEO for 21 years.

“When I joined the organisation the 10-year annual average of fatal drownings was 185, today it is 115 and thankfully the trend is downward,” he said on announcing is retirement.

“Our membership was less than 1,000 whilst today it is over 5,500. In terms of lifesaving sport we had two weekends of sport each year. We now have 22 or 23 competitions each year and we had no vehicles, boats craft or buildings, WSI now has lots of equipment, boats, buildings, vehicles now to enable it to run training programmes and sports competitions.”

Before joining Water Safety Ireland he had served with the Navy as a Lt.Commander and was involved in developing the Naval Service Diving Unit.

Water Safety Ireland is a statutory, voluntary body and registered charity established to promote water safety and reduce drownings in Ireland.

Published in Water Safety

The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today appointed Clare McGrath as the new Chair of Water Safety Ireland (WSI), which works to prevent drownings.

Ms McGrath has been a lifelong advocate for drowning prevention and in addition to being a volunteer with WSI and serving on the WSI Council, is the Water Safety Development Officer with Clare County Council since 2014.

Ms McGrath received a thirty-year Long Service Award at the WSI National Awards Ceremony in November for her voluntary efforts as an Instructor, Examiner and Tutor and her experience predates this Award, having won National Lifesaving Competitions aged sixteen and lifeguarding at seventeen. As a current member of the WSI Council, she has helped to develop a National Drowning Prevention Strategy. As the current Chair of the WSI Sports Commission, she has played a key role in developing Lifesaving Sport in which participation levels are at an all-time high. 

Currently the Chair of the Federation of Irish Sport, and the former Chair of Swim Ireland, Ms McGrath has a particular penchant for teaching the Water Safety Ireland Lifeguarding and Lifesaving Sport syllabus through which a corps of Lifeguards is educated so that waterways and pools have competent cover to protect the public.

Announcing the appointment, Minister Humphreys said: “I am delighted to appoint Clare McGrath as the new Chairperson of the Council to Water Safety Ireland. Clare brings a wealth of experience as a lifelong member of Water Safety Ireland and Swim Ireland. I also want to acknowledge the contribution of Martin O’Sullivan, the outgoing Chair, and to thank him for his strong contribution and dedication to Water Safety Ireland over several years. WSI is an organisation with a rich history of volunteerism and is deeply committed to these volunteers who teach swimming, lifesaving and promote drowning prevention initiatives nationwide. WSI has been consistently to the fore in raising awareness of the dangers of drowning in water over many years as well as the education and training of thousands of people in water safety.” 

Commenting on her appointment as WSI Chair, Ms McGrath said: “My objective is to bring drownings down by promoting the necessary rescue skills, attitudes and behaviours that will prevent drownings and water related accidents. I very much look forward to working with the WSI Council and engaging it’s Commissions, the thirty Water Safety Area Committees nationwide and it’s members, Local Authorities, and other Agencies to develop policies and projects that help encourage more participation and engagement at all levels. Over the next five years as Chairperson I look forward to providing leadership to the Council in the continued delivery of Ireland’s National Drowning Prevention Strategy 2018-2027, and the strategic development of the organisation. I thank the outgoing Chair Martin O’Sullivan for his commitment and the WSI staff for the support they give to drowning prevention.” 

The CEO of WSI, John Leech and staff welcome this appointment and look forward to working with Ms McGrath on delivering many projects ahead.

Published in Water Safety
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Irish people are more likely to take water safety seriously if it doesn’t involve obeying a law.

As The Sunday Independent reports, almost two decades after wearing a lifejacket first became compulsory in Ireland, legislation has proved so unenforceable that there have only been a handful of prosecutions.

However, Ireland is still at the top of the league table in lifejacket use, according to Water Safety Ireland (WSI) chief executive John Leech.

Educational campaigns, rather than legislation, may be the main reason for compliance at an average of over 80 per cent, Leech says.

Wearing lifejackets on the decks of fishing vessels became law in 2002 under a statutory instrument introduced by former Fianna Fáíl marine minister Frank Fahey.

Children up to the age of 16 years on mechanically-propelled pleasure craft, jetski operators and certain categories of commercial passenger boats were also covered by the initial legislation.

However, in 2003, then marine minister Dermot Ahern said that he would be extending mandatory wearing of lifejackets to everyone except surfers and oars people involved in competitive rowing.

The previous year, five people lost their lives in the Pisces angling boat accident off Fethard-on-Sea, Co Wexford. None of the victims had been wearing any sort of flotation device.

When the Pleasure Craft (Personnel Flotation Devices and Operation( Safety) Regulations came into effect in 2005, the Garda were automatically empowered to implement them, and other officers could be authorised by the relevant minister and other bodies including a harbour authority.

The 2005 regulations required that there must be suitable PFDs/lifejackets for everyone on board any pleasure craft of any length.

The regulations also required that PFDs must be worn by anyone on board an open craft or on the deck of a craft under seven metres (23 ft) in length and anyone under 16 years of age on any craft.

In addition, users of skis, donuts and jetskis were required to wear them.

The fine was fixed at 150 euro, and the only exceptions were made for divers, swimmers from a stationary vessel, or for those on board a vessel tied up alongside or made fast to an anchor, marina, pier or mooring.

However, legal experts warned that the regulations would be unenforceable without resources.

The Garda Press Office said that since 2006 there have been five incidents recorded under the Merchant Shipping Act relating to the “non-wearing of life vests”.

“Legislation is important, but education has proved to be more effective,” Leech said.

“This water safety awareness now starts in pre-schools, and is already well established in Irish primary schools,” he said.

Read The Sunday Independent here

Published in Water Safety

Cork County Council has joined the Irish Coast Guard and Water Safety Ireland in appealing to members of the public to be mindful of their personal safety if they’re visiting the coast this week.

The three organisations have issued guidelines for anyone taking part in coastal walks. They’re asking people to stay away from exposed coastal and cliff edges, tell someone where you’re going and to pay attention to tide times and safety signs.

They’re also advising people to dress appropriately for the conditions, to wear a high-factor sunscreen and to bring enough food and water for their journey.

A status yellow high temperature warning remains in place for the entire country. Met Éireann is predicting maximum temperatures of between 25 and 30 degrees for Co Cork until tomorrow, Friday 23 July.

Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Gillian Coughlan said: “We all appreciate the vital work that the council’s beach lifeguards, coastguard and RNLI do on a daily basis, and the last thing anyone wants is to put these vital services under unnecessary strain. By staying informed and prepared, we can help ensure our own safety and the safety of our family members.

“Plan your route carefully and keep an eye on the tide times to avoid being cut off by a tidal cutoff. Keep to the path when enjoying our beautiful coastal walkways; keep dogs on leashes and keep a safe distance from cliff edges, which can be extremely unstable. Cork has an unmatched coastline; let us take advantage of it safely.”

Tim Lucey, chief executive of Cork County Council, added: “Co Cork is home to 19% of the country’s coastline and thousands of people are expected to flock to the seaside to make the most of the good weather. I hope that holiday makers and day trippers will follow these simple guidelines to ensure that they have a safe and enjoyable visit.

“I would also remind visitors to park safely and to ensure that they are not blocking vital access for the emergency services.”

Water Safety Ireland chief executive John Leech highlights the fact that there will be a full moon on Saturday which will bring with it spring tides which increases the risk of stranding.

“Please carry a mobile phone and call 112 and ask for the coastguard if you find yourself in difficulty or being cut off by the tide,” he said.

The Irish Coast Guard’s head of operations Gerard O’Flynn said that the number of incidents coordinated by the coastguard is at a five-year high and he appealed to the public to at all times to be mindful of their personal safety, be it on the water or along the coast.

“Please ensure that any activity you engage in is being monitored by a colleague who should be aware of your plans and estimated return time,” he said.

Cork County Council’s beach lifeguards are on full-time duty from 10.30am until 7pm daily at 12 beaches: Youghal Front Strand, Claycastle, Redbarn, Garryvoe, Fountainstown, Inchydoney East & West, Owenahincha, The Warren, Tragumna, Barleycove Beaches, Garrylucas and Garretstown.

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast use VHF Channel 16 or Dial 112 and ask for coastguard.

For more information, visit gov.ie/summerready or safetyonthewater.gov.ie

Published in Water Safety

Water Safety Ireland is recruiting for an Education Officer to join the team based in Galway, though the role is currently remote due to COVID-19.

The successful candidate will be responsible for a variety of areas, including assisting with the development and delivery of water safety education and training programmes, workshops and camps to the likes of schools and aquatic facilities.

For more details on this entry level position and to apply online, visit the Water Safety Ireland website HERE.

Published in Jobs
Tagged under

In asking the public to remain vigilant near water this Bank holiday weekend, Water Safety Ireland says the risks are even greater at inland waterways. Although 40,000 people live less than 100 metres from the coast and some 2 million people live within 5km of the coast (40% of the population), the majority of drownings, some 62%, actually occur inland at our rivers and lakes.

As people stay home apart from exercising within 5km, Water Safety Ireland is advising the public that to stay SAFE is to “Stay Away From the Edge” if exercising near water this October Bank Holiday and throughout the upcoming mid-term break for schools. Now that people cannot meet up apart from with one other household, the risk of not being rescued if you get into difficulty will increase because there may not be others around to see an accident unfold.

As people are urged to adhere to Government advice at gov.ie/covid19, it is equally important that people adhere to water safety advice during periods of exercise within the Level 5 restrictions, and particularly if a walking regime includes the supervision of children.

WSI is reminding parents and guardians that thirty children died from drowning in ten years. Children are naturally curious about water and constant supervision is the safest way to avoid tragedy. Drownings can occur within the home environments to which we are restricted, where familiarity can breed complacency, making danger more difficult to spot. Streams, drains, ponds, water tanks, septic tanks, slurry pits and waterside fencing should all be properly secured.

  • Be aware of the changeable weather at this time of year. Reduced temperatures increase the risk of cold shock and hypothermia which makes swimming to safety difficult or impossible.
  • Do not attempt to rescue pets from the water. Earlier this week, a gentleman had a lucky escape after falling from a cliff walk while trying to rescue his dog. In such instances, there may not be anyone around to call the Rescue Services as people comply with the need to stay at home.
  • Always wear a Lifejacket when on or near water and ensure that it has a correctly fitted crotch strap. Surfers, kite boarders, divers, kayakers and sailors should wear suitably warm and waterproof clothing.
  • Shore walkers should stay away from the edge and remain vigilant to the dangers of being stranded and to being carried away by dangerous swells
  • In emergency situations, call 112 early and ask for the Coast Guard. 
Published in Water Safety
Tagged under
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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