Date Published : August 14th, 2014 Published By : adminPrior to 2012, a high number of suicides and attempted suicides have taken place along Wexford Harbour and at Wexford Bridge. Such was the extent of these alarming figures, local man Frank Flanagan established a voluntary ‘Suicide Prevention & Safety Patrols’ called Wexford Marine Watch.
The aim and focus of the organisation is to detect and prevent further suicides and deaths in the Wexford Bridge and Harbour areas, and now in its third year of operation the volunteers have managed to greatly reduce the number of suicide attempts along the harbour to zero. The Patrols operate under the supervision and guidance of the Irish Coast Guard and the Gardai.
Over 80 people from various emergency and voluntary services from the area such as Gardai, Fire and Ambulance service personnel and volunteers from the RNLI, Civil Defence and the Order of Malta are involved in this very worthy voluntary organisation, which operates without any state funding and relies heavily on donations. To date, since its establishment in 2012, Wexford Marine Watch has recorded over sixty incidents, and directly saved the lives of twenty nine people.
Chairman and founder of Wexford Marine Watch Frank Flanagan explained to Emergency Times what the unit does. “We patrol several nights a week, our volunteers would cover the bridge and the Quay areas in the harbour and the Ferrybank side, and we are basically looking for people who are contemplating suicide or who may have difficulties or who are looking for assistance”
Leaving Cert Patrol saves vulnerable person from self harm
This week alone, extra Patrols were on duty to coincide with the Leaving Certificate results and celebrations and, just as one Patrol was about to finish duty at 4am, the volunteers had one intervention at the very last minute, where someone was prevented from harming themselves. After engaging with the individual for some time, the person was then handed over into care of the Gardaí.
Official Opening of Portacabin Base
This week was also an important and special week for the group as they officially opened their new Portacabin base at the River Slaney at Wexford Harbour on Tuesday 12th August. Up to now the Marine Watch had been operating primarily from their response vehicle. Speaking at the opening Frank Flanagan said “We are delighted to finally have somewhere to call a ‘Base’ For the past two years the organisation has been working out of the back of a vehicle and this (base) will allow us to extend our training programme for Volunteers and also give us the opportunity to roll out some new Life-saving equipment”
The Mayor of Wexford, Cllr. George Lawlor who is also an associated volunteer of Wexford Marine Watch made the official opening while Most Rev. Bishop Denis Brennan blessed the base. Many members of the Gardaí, Irish Coast Guard, Wexford RNLI, Wexford Marine Search & Rescue, the Fire Service, Civil Defence, Order of Malta and local representatives and other distinguished guests attended the special opening ceremony.
Mayor: ‘Extremely proud of their approach, professionalism an manner in which its gone about it’s business’
The Mayor described Wexford Marine Watch as a community response in association with the Local Authorities and the emergency services, both voluntary and state. “It has been so successful, we are extremely proud Wexford Marinewatches’ approach, professionalism and manner in which it has gone about its business and the results are there and clear for all to see”
He commended the volunteers and said the success and results were clear to see. Wexford Marine Watch has achieved a huge task in reducing suicides and attempted suicides from what were 53 deaths three years prior to its foundation in 2012, to zero deaths along the Harbour today.
The Mayor said “The notion that there are people within the community who care enough to put themselves on the hazard and go out night after night patrolling to give solace to those who may be a vulnerable position. It’s a hugely successful community approach and I am delighted as Mayor of Wexford that Wexford Local Authority has been fully supportive of the project from the start”
(L-R) Mick Hanton (Order of Malta), John Maher (Fire Service), Philip Creane ( Wexford Civil Defence), Frank Flanagan (Chairman), Garda Inspector Denis Whelan, Wexford Mayor George Lawlor, Ger Carthy (HSE National Ambulance Service), Nick Bowie (Wexford RNLI) and Conor Barry (Civil Defence).
The new portacabin base will be a big asset to the voluntary group, and will also allow for the introduction of more safety equipment and a training facility. Chairman Frank Flanagan said “This will allow us to extend our training programme for Volunteers and also give us the opportunity to roll out some new Life-saving equipment”
All volunteers undergo a specific Training Program, which includes a SafeTALK course (Suicide awareness) and participate in live training exercises with the local RNLI Lifeboat Crew, which prepares them for various scenarios of people entering the water.
“Safety of our Volunteers is paramount” added Mr. Flanagan; “Our Volunteers do not enter the water, the RNLI are trained for that, and we’re lucky we have the Lifeboat station so close to the Bridge. We are purely an Intervention Service. Our trained volunteers are there to intercept persons who feel they have no other option, and give them alternatives”.
Wexford Marine Watch can be found at the following:
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