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Coast Guard suspends cliff rescues due to safety concerns

The Coast Guard said it is working to reinstate the function as quickly as possible.

Image: The Irish Image Collection

THE IRISH COAST Guard has temporarily suspended its cliff rescue function nationwide due to safety concerns. 

It said it is working to reinstate the function as quickly as possible and that the suspension is “in order to complete adjustments to various elements of the cliff rescue system”. 

“This suspension of cliff activities is in line with the Coast Guard’s safety management system,” a Coast Guard spokesperson said, adding that all other search and rescue services remain in place around the country. 

“While cliff rescue operations are suspended, the affected areas will be serviced by a combination of SAR Helicopter services and existing Coast Guard Units.” 

The safety of Coast Guard crew and volunteers is paramount and the function will be resumed when it has been is deemed safe to do so.

Coast Guard volunteers had previously expressed concern about their safety as they were unable to access regular training exercises which were suspended during all three of the Covid-19 lockdowns – cliff training was only permitted to return at Level 3.

There are 17 cliff teams nationwide and sources told TheJournal.ie that some members had not trained in six months. The Coast Guard had reduced the number of required exercises to be completed by members of cliff teams in a year to retain eligibility.

In June last year, volunteers in cliff rescue teams were issued with a number of additional precautions to take if they were tasked to an incident.

This included the use of masks for both the rescuers and the casualties when they reached them as well as the use of disposable gloves at certain points in the rescue, switching back to cliff gloves at other stages.

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The new procedures also advise the use of hand signals as some members would be unable to communicate effectively verbally or via the radio with their masks on.

The Coast Guard said it responds to about one incident a month involving persons falling on cliffs and these are normally resolved by a combination of Coast Guard teams and SAR Helicopters.

- With reporting from Michelle Hennessy 

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