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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 15 September, 2019
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Coast Guard saved over 400 lives this year

Around 1,000 volunteers help operate the service.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/SB_photos

THE COAST GUARD saved more than 400 lives in 2018, up from 340 last year.

This figure refers to assistance provided that was it not available, would have resulted in loss of life or severe risk of loss of life or protracted hospitalisation, according to the organisation’s end-of-year review.

The Coast Guard’s marine rescue coordination centres (MRCCs) at Malin Head, Valentia Island and Dublin operate on a 24/7 basis.

In the past year, the three centres managed a total of 2,650 incidents, a rise when compared to 2017 (2,503 incidents).

The report notes that the Coast Guard’s core safety message is ‘Stay Afloat – Stay in Touch’.

This approach highlights the importance of never engaging in any commercial or recreational boating activity without wearing a fully serviced life jacket or personal flotation device coupled with a capacity to raise the alarm via means such as a VHF radio, personal locator beacon or mobile phone.

MRCC Dublin serves as the national point of contact for processing electronic satellite-based safety alerts.

In 2018, MRCC Dublin processed a total of 137 electronic transmissions – the majority of which proved to be false, arising from accidental activation or out-of-date equipment no longer in service.

The Coast Guard has emphasised that this should not detract from the value of such devices and highlighted the importance of all users being familiar with their operation and inbuilt test mechanisms.

Helicopters 

Coast Guard helicopter services are provided under contract by CHCI, which operates a fleet of Sikorsky S92 helicopters out of bases in Dublin, Shannon, Waterford and Sligo.

Helicopter services at each of the four bases are on 15-minute standby notice by day and 45 minutes by night.

As well as its primary role of provision of maritime search-and-rescue services, the Coast Guard provides a round-the-clock medical evacuation service to the offshore islands.

In 2018, the Coast Guard flew a total of 102 medical missions from islands to the mainland, 35 more than in 2017. Coast Guard helicopters also conducted eight long-range offshore medical evacuations in addition to coastal and inshore search-and-rescue missions.

Coast Guard helicopters also provide helicopter emergency medical service for the HSE and National Ambulance Service, including inter-hospital transfers. The busiest inter-hospital transfer routes are from Letterkenny and Sligo to University Hospital Galway.

Coast Guard helicopters have flown in excess of 670 missions this year, of which 119 were conducted on behalf of the HSE. Coast Guard helicopter services also include inland searches for missing people and medical evacuations in support of An Garda Síochána and mountain rescue teams.

Volunteers 

The Coast Guard has a membership of about 1,000 volunteers, with units delivering boat, cliff and shoreline search-and-rescue services as well as supporting their local communities during emergencies such as inclement weather.

“These community services were to the forefront during storm Emma in March when major challenges were experienced in reaching essential services,” the report notes. 

Coast Guard volunteers provided emergency transport to healthcare staff, conducted patient transfers and provided support to isolated homes. Overall, volunteer Coast Guard units were tasked on a total of 1,185 separate occasions throughout the year.

Coast Guard Director Chris Reynolds said: “I want to particularly acknowledge the commitment and professionalism of our volunteer members.

“In addition to the three core services that they provide they are an integral part of community resilience and continually act as the eyes and ears of our RCCs in assessing and responding to any coastal emergency.”

RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is categorised as a declared resource to the Coast Guard which means that each station can be directly requested to respond to individual incidents. The RNLI was requested to launch on 836 occasions this year. 

Reynolds stressed the importance of raising the alarm in time.

If you can raise the alarm and you can stay afloat then you have an outstanding chance of being rescued by our world-class rescue service.

“If you see somebody in trouble or if you think they are in trouble at sea, on the water or along the coast dial 112 or 999 and ask for the Coast Guard.”

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Órla Ryan

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