County Carlow’s Fire Call-outs Increase

Carlow Fire and Rescue Service has seen a 26% increase in incidents in the first half of 2013, compared to the first six months of 2012 when the fire service dealt with 193 incidents, this rose to 244 in the same period in 2013.

County Carlow has four fire stations, Carlow, Bagenalstown, Tullow and Hacketstown. Carlow station responded to 125 incidents from January to June 2013, compared to 107 for the same period in 2012; Bagenalstown dealt with 61 for the first six months of 2012 compared to 67 in 2013, while Hacketstown dealt with just 6 calls over the first six months in 2012, which increased to 11 in 2013. There was a significant increase of call-outs for Tullow station however, with 19 incidents from January to June in 2012 to 41 incidents for the same period in 2013.

Carlow’s Chief Fire Officer Gerard Guerin stated that malicious grass fires led to the increase in fire call outs this year. “There has been a 26% increase in our operational activity, the vast majority of which is down to grass fires, maliciously caused and set,” he stated. “We had a case during the summer where we received four calls to the same field in Carlow town in one day, a similar incident happened in Tullow at 2am,” Mr Guerin said.

At a recent sitting of Carlow County Council, local councillor Michael Doran asked whether, despite extensive educational initiatives undertaken by the fire service, the message of fire safety “was still not getting through, while councillor John Pender asked if there were adequate staffing levels in both Tullow and Hacketstown to deal with the increased demand.

CFO Guerin said he was gravely concerned in the rise of call-outs and confirmed that a thorough countywide risk assessment was underway. He said there had been a reduction in the number of fire-fighters in Tullow from 11 to 13. “This is of grave concern to us, as we try to deliver a high quality fire and rescue service. This is a drain on our resources and a waste of valuable funds. He added “The service was currently undergoing a comprehensive risk assessment of the entire county, in a way it never has been done in this county or anywhere else in the country before.”

Mr Guerin expected the results of this survey to be available in October, the findings of which are hoped to shape the policy and services of Carlow Fire and Rescue Service into the future.

Pic: Courtesy Declan Keogh

Irish Troops Awarded United Nations Service Medals

The Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Conor O’ Boyle awarded the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Service Medal to 150 Irish and Finnish Military Peacekeepers in United Nations Post 2-45, near the town of At Tiri in Lebanon today 19th September 2013.

General O’Boyle was completing a two day visit to the 108 IRISHFINN Battalion who deployed to Lebanon in May. This is General O’Boyle’s first visit to a deployed Irish Unit since his appointment as Chief of Staff in August. There are three hundred and thirty two (332) Irish Peacekeepers serving with one hundred and seventy five (175) Finnish Soldiers as part of the joint battalion which is currently led by an Irish Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Tony Mc Kenna from Louth.

During his visit General O’Boyle met the UNIFIL Force Commander Major General Paolo Serra, received extensive briefings from the IRISHFINN Battalion on the current operational picture and met members of the Battalion informally to discuss their deployment. He also completed a familiarisation patrol of the area of operations including visits to UN Posts 6-52 and 6-50 which are manned by Irish and Finnish Personnel respectively and are strategically deployed metres from the “Blue Line” which separates Lebanon and Israel.

At 8am, prior to today’s Medal Parade, General O’Boyle, in a poignant ceremony, laid a wreath in memory of the forty seven (47) Irish Soldiers who died on Peacekeeping Duties in Lebanon at the Memorial in Tibnin, a town which used to house the Headquarters (Camp Shamrock) of successive Irish Battalions.

Commenting prior to his departure from UN Post 2-45 this afternoon, General O’Boyle said

“I have been particularly impressed by the professionalism and dedication to duty of these men and women of the Irish Defence Forces serving here in Lebanon with the United Nations, side by side with their Finnish Comrades. Their service in South Lebanon epitomises the ethos of Óglaigh na hÉireann, as they place themselves at the centre of UNIFIL’s efforts to bring security and calm to this area of the Middle East. Their work here is a source of great pride to me as Chief of Staff.”

Today’s Medal Parade was also attended by the UNIFIL Force Commander Major General Paolo Serra, Brigadier General Pat Phelan Deputy Force Commander from Ireland and his Excellency Kari Kahiluoto, Finnish Ambassador to Lebanon.

HSE Ambulance in line for trial PPE

The HSE Ambulance Service has participated in a European project in relation to the development of PPE proposals. However, the HSE said it currently has ‘no plans’ as yet to provide ambulance personnel with stab vests. The emergency ambulance service has been identified however as an end-user in a trial for a new generation of body Armour  called BOSSA.

In response to an issue raised in a parliamentary question by TD Séan Kenny, Director of the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS) Martin Dunne said ‘numerous consultations established that there was no requirement for the vests. Last year the ambulance service participated in a European project proposal in relation to the development of uniform personal protective equipment’ he said.

Recent figures show that there have been over 300 attacks on front-line emergency personnel. The report also revealed that over 1,500 attacks in a five year period. Incidents included alleged assaults on prison officers, Gardaí, ambulance personnel and members of the fire brigade and defence forces as well staff assisting at hospitals.

The BOASSA project aims at a novel generation of smart and comfortable body armour that secures intervention personnel against most common assault, such as slash and low energetic stab attacks with sharp objects and attacks with a blunt object.

The HSE confirmed that there is a robust programme in place whereby staff are “empowereed to risk assess, and if necessary, withdraw from any situation where they feel their safety may be compromised”. In the event that ambulance crews may be responding to potentially dangerous situations, Gardai will be informed by Ambulance Control before mobilising staff to the scene of the incident.

“Fortunately there have been no incidents where NAS staff have been stabbed while carrying out their duties,” the HSE added.

Worlds 1st Interactive Child’s Ambulance ‘Bumbleance’

The world’s first interactive ambulance designed specifically for children was unveiled in Dublin on 6th September  ’13, through the Saoirse Foundation charity. The Bumbleance was developed following the death of Tony and Mary Heffernan’s daughter when she died in an Ambulance.

Having made several trips from the Dingle peninsula to Temple Street children’s hospital and back, the couple wanted to create a child-friendly ambulance to help seriously ill children and their families.  “These kids who will use this have shortened lives,” Mr Heffernan said. “So every journey should be special when you have only got this much time on earth.”

The Heffernan’s five-year-old son is also terminally ill and has less than a year to live.

Outside the ambulance is designed to look like a bumble bee, and on the inside there is mood lighting to help calm the child, as well as colorful imagery and writing with large fonts. All medical equipment is hidden and from their stretcher the child can control the on board multimedia system, which includes a 19-inch LED TV, iPad mini, Sony playstation, Nabi games tablet as well as a full library of films, e-books and music.

Child psychotherapist at the Solamh Clinic, Joanna Fortune, said giving children this little bit of control can be really helpful.  “When you’re in more control and have more power over a situation immediately you feel better about it,” she said.

Ms Fortune added that the parts of the brain which experience physical pain are the same as those where “we can see stress and anxiety”.  She said if you can eliminate this by providing a relaxing environment, then you “can facilitate a child to arrive in hospital in actually less pain”. On board WiFi also allows for internet browsing, social media engagement and Skype calls. The Bumbleance can also be GPS tracked through their website and members of the public will also be able to tweet or send messages to the child, who will receive a certificate for completing the trip.

Although the Bumbleance is fully equipped to do so it will not be used for emergency services. Its main function will be to transport children with long-term serious or life threatening illnesses between their home and hospital.  “This is a very unique environment and we would know the benefits directly from having moved children in a normal ambulance,” said David Hall from Lifeline Ambulance Service, who are providing their services to the charity at cost.  “The relief that this will give for parents for seriously ill children travelling will be immense,” he said, describing the ambulance as a “little playground”.

As demand is expected to be high children will have to meet certain criteria to be eligible and bookings will have to be made in advance. A child’s clinician or treating consultant can refer them to Lifeline or the Saoirse Foundation. Mr Hall said they are expecting to transport up to 40 children per month in the vehicle, which will be based in the company’s Leixlip headquarters in Co Kildare. The Bumbleance cost less than €200,000 to develop and at least a further €150,000 will be required to run it on an annual basis. Although the project has been welcomed by the Government it has received no state funding.

Speaking at the launch Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald welcomed the private initiative and said it was interesting the service hasn’t been thought about before. The Minister added that Government funding for the project doesn’t arise at present”.  “In an environment where budget wasn’t an issue, clearly you’d like to see this kind of service develop,” she said. “We’re very constrained at present, that’s the reality and I wouldn’t want to pretend anything else.” Mr Heffernan said he is hoping to have five Bumbleances up and running by 2015, one for each province in the country and another based in Dublin.

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Naval Service Commissioning Ceremony

Mr Paul Kehoe TD, Minister of State at the Department of Defence and Chief Whip, accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Conor O’Boyle attended the Commissioning Ceremony of six new Officers at the Naval Base, Haulbowline, Cork on Thursday, 05th September 2013.

This is a very important and proud day for the members of the 51st Naval Service Cadet Class as they are awarded their Presidential Commissions. This represents the successful completion of two years intensive military and nautical training. The six Cadets completed a very demanding, challenging and rewarding course of basic officer training including diverse subjects such as navigation, seamanship, leadership, communications, marine engineering and naval warfare, while a strategic studies course was completed at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.

The six Cadets completed sea time experience across the Services fleet and commenced their first year of academic study for a Bachelor of Science in Nautical Science at the National Maritime College of Ireland.

Defence Forces 43rd Infantry Group bound for Syria

Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, T.D. accompanied by the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lieutenant General Conor O’Boyle reviewed the troops of the 43rd Infantry Group on Tuesday the 3rd of September in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin.

Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Brendan Delaney, the 115 troops of the 43rd Infantry Group have been in training for the past five weeks, and depart for a six month tour of duty in Syria on peacekeeping duties with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights.

Drawn primarily from the 2nd Brigade of the Army (Northern half of the country), the 43rd Infantry Group will be the first operational Irish troops deployed with the United Nations Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF) which polices a zone of separation between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights since 1974.

The ceremonial occasion consisted of a parade, Ministerial Inspection and address followed by a march past within the barracks. The parade was attended by the families of the members of the 43rd Infantry Group and invited guests.

Skerries RNLI to name new inshore lifeboat Louis Simson

A new Atlantic 85 lifeboat for Skerries RNLI is to be officially named Louis Simson during a ceremony at the lifeboat station in the north county Dublin coastal town at 2pm today, Saturday 7 September.

The lifeboat which went on service in February was funded by a 75-year-old legacy from the late Charlotte Jordan Simson in memory of her husband Louis. Charlotte who hailed from Salem, India, married Louis Simson, a native of London, in 1882. The couple relocated to Tasmania where Louis was a mining agent and stockbroker. Following his death in 1922, Mrs Simson returned to the UK where she lived in Paddington London until her death in September 1938. Mrs Simson made provision in her will for a trust fund that would provide various relatives with a modest income for life. She arranged that, once the trust fund had come to an end, the remaining money should fund an RNLI lifeboat to be named in memory of her beloved husband.

Now, three quarters of a century on, Mrs Simson’s wish will be granted when Leo Cody, a former Deputy Launching Authority and one of the founding members of Skerries RNLI station, will officially name the lifeboat.

Niall McGrotty, Skerries RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: ‘This is a very special occasion for our lifeboat station and we are most grateful to the late Charlotte Simson for her generous legacy which has funded our lifeboat, Louis Simson. Since the lifeboat went on service earlier this year, there have been 24 call outs and 49 people have been brought to safety. We will be proud custodians of this lifeboat, which will go on to rescue and save many more lives in the years ahead’.

The RNLI established a lifeboat station in Skerries in 1854 and a boathouse was built. The station closed in 1930 when a motor lifeboat was placed on service at Howth. The station was re-established as an inshore lifeboat station with a D class lifeboat in 1981. The lifeboat was kept in a stone-built house on the sea front.

In 1997, a B class Atlantic 21 lifeboat was placed at the station for evaluation and a new boathouse was completed in August that year for the Atlantic lifeboat and launching tractor. The Atlantic 75, B-747 Rockabill, named after a lighthouse off Skerries, was place on service in June 1998. In 2005, the station was awarded a Centenary Vellum to commemorate an aggregate of 100 years service as a lifeboat station.

Fast, manoeuvrable and reliable, the B class operates in rough weather conditions, capable in daylight up to force seven and at night, to force six winds.

The new lifeboat, an Atlantic 85 is the latest version of the B class, introduced into the fleet in 2005. She is powered by two 115horsepower engines and has a stronger hull and greater top speed than her predecessor. The added radar allows the crew to operate more effectively in poor visibility and she also has VHF direction-finding equipment.

The vessel also has a manually operated self-righting mechanism which combined with inversion-proofed engines keep the lifeboat operational even after capsize. The lifeboat can also be beached in an emergency without causing damage to its engines or steering gear.

The Atlantic 85 carries a full suite of communication and electronic navigation aids, as well as a searchlight, night-vision equipment and flares for night-time operations.

The RNLI is a charity which relies on voluntary contributions and legacies.

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