The company that provides helicopter search and rescue (SAR) services for the Irish Coast Guard looks set to make a dramatic u-turn on its policy concerning the use of social media by its crews.
CHC Helicopters, who had been slammed for forcing the closure of two Facebook pages associated with two of its four bases, has confirmed pages that have been recently closed with will return in the near future.
By Pat Flynn
In 2010, the global company was awarded a 10-year, €500m contract to provide helicopter Search and Rescue (SAR) services on behalf of the Department of Transport and Irish Coast Guard from bases at Shannon, Waterford, Dublin and Sligo.
The 5-year-old Facebook page for the Shannon-based helicopter, Rescue 115, was closed last January despite having almost 9,000 followers. It was claimed at the time that CHC instructed staff in Shannon to cease posting information about operations.
In the wake of that closure, a new page was quickly set up and now has almost 22,000 supporters while providing as many if not more updates than the previous.
In recent weeks, the Facebook page of Rescue 117, the SAR helicopter located at Waterford airport, was also forced to close.
Within hours, a new page called ‘We Support CHC Crews’ was set up.
According to a source: “Crews in Shannon and Waterford have been instructed by CHC not to have any involvement in the Facebook any longer. This is despite the professional level that the page has operated at for the last 5 years. Information about postings were delayed and only the bare details of missions were posted. Everyone was very careful about that.”
“Efforts have been made to have the matter resolved but so far there has been no movement. Because crews can’t have involvement in the page, it was decided to close it despite the massive support behind it,” he said.
“The Irish Coast Guard hasn’t had a problem with any of the pages and indeed their own Facebook page has almost 28,000 supporters,” he added.
Now it appears that CHC Helicopters has made a U-turn on their previous decision to stop SAR base staff from posting updates.
A spokeswoman for CHC Helicopters said: “Social media has developed at such a phenomenal rate over the past few years we are now keen to ensure a co-ordinated and consistent approach across the different social media channels for the four Irish SAR bases.
As such, we have decided to bring the updating and posting of the Facebook pages in-house within the SAR base team(s). The Facebook pages will go live again in the very near future. We very much appreciate the public’s support for the work of our dedicated SAR crews,” the spokeswoman said.
“We are still working through the technicalities of Facebook to allow us to have a consistent approach and then need to see if we able to retain the existing sites to be managed by local base administrators,” she added.