Guarding the waters of Limerick with life-saving project

Photo: Courtesy Community Garda John O'Sullivan

Improving the chances of a successful outcome of river-based incidents through enhanced communication, training and new equipment is the aim of a new pilot project launched by An Garda Síochána in Limerick today.

The ‘Dan Buoy and Tetra Pilot Project’ was formally launched at 12.45pm at Estuary House on Bishops Quay, Limerick.

Representatives from various Principal Response Agencies (PRA’s), Voluntary Rescue Services (VRS) and other stakeholders attended.

The Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Daniel Butler described the launch as historic and he commended the emergency services for setting the standards.

This project is led by Community Garda John O’Sullivan and is the culmination of 2 years work by PRA’s in Limerick City such as An Garda Síochána, Limerick Fire & Rescue Service, Limerick City & County Council and some of the VRS such as Limerick Civil Defence, Limerick Marine Search & Rescue along with Water Safety Ireland and the Shannon Foynes Port Company.

Photos: Courtesy Community Garda John O’Sullivan

The project has the potential to save lives and improve the outcomes of water based incidents in Limerick City. New equipment and training will protect first responders and greatly improve the assistance available to casualties in the water.

The project involved a cross-service and inter-agency working group, the Limerick River Rescue Coordination Group (LRRCG) who assisted and participated with the ‘Dan Buoy and Tetra Pilot Project’.

Limerick City and County Council allocated €6000 worth of funding for the equipment.

Speaking at the launch this afternoon, Chief Supt. Gerard Roche said: “Tremendous work is being done here in the city. We know all the issues in relation to the amount of people entering the water. It’s quite frightening. There is a stretch of water here, where over a six-year period 30 people lost their lives. In that same period, we have saved over 270 which is significant.”

Demonstrating the life-saving device, Garda John O’Sullivan said: “When you open it out, you drop it as close to the casualty as you can or where you think someone has entered the water. It will inflate automatically like a life jacket, it floats to the surface and will move with the flow. if somebody is swimming, theyre conscious and are encouraged to hold on to it. It can be digitally tracked and picked up by the Coast Guard and visibiliy, its very bright, it has a strobe light on it making it very easy to see.”

Garda John O’Sullivan

Communication, training and equipment between services are a key focus of the project. Forty local Gardaí have been trained in using the equipment so far, which, once deployed, will be able to assist the casualty if they hold on to it and will mimic their direction in the water if they are not. It is currently deployed in four garda cars from Henry Street and two from Mayorstone garda station.

Speaking to the Limerick Leader following the launch, the Mayor of Limerick City and County, Cllr Daniel Butler described it as historic. “It’s with mixed emotions that I am here as unfortunately we are talking about people’s lives, loss of life and the pain and suffering associated with it. At the same time, another part of me is quite proud to see the level of cooperation and coordination that is ultimately going to save lives.”

Limerick River Rescue Coordination Group (LRRCG) was established in 2019, after it was highlighted that no working group with a vested interest in water based incidents was in existence in Limerick City. Limerick City, between Thomond Bridge and Shannon Bridge has a high incidence rate.

A project titled the Dan Buoy and Tetra Pilot Project was then undertaken to improve the likelihood of a successful outcome of river based incidents by focusing on three main aspects; communications, training and equipment.

Communications

The main communications platform currently being used for river based incidents is VHF marine radio, this platform has major limitations in Limerick due to the cityscape and also inclement weather can greatly impact range. Irish Coast Guard, Limerick City Fire & Rescue and Limerick Marine Search & Rescue use this platform, while Gardaí have no access. If a Garda involved in a river based incident in Limerick needs to make contact with a rescue boat on the water, as is often the case, information is disseminated through a number of steps and means of communication, creating a time lag in time sensitive incidents.

Tetra Radio is the only solution in speeding up communication in a river based incident. All stakeholders have access to a shared emergency channel. Gardaí will now be able to communicate with all PRA’s including the ICG Helicopter, Fire Service and NAS without any time lag. An effective and functioning shared communication platform has the potential to save lives in Limerick City.

Training
All student Gardaí coming through Henry Street, Roxboro and Mayorstone will now be given a full day on site induction by Limerick City Fire & Rescue and Limerick Marine Search & Rescue, this will be completed through Divisional CPD. Approximately 40 students to date have completed said training and the feedback has been very positive.

Equipment
Gardaí in Henry Street and Mayorstone have 6 Dan Buoys to be deployed from the back of the main response vehicles for Regular Units and Community Policing. This specific type of Buoy have never been used in Ireland before and at a European level they are only being used in Germany by their navy.  A Dan Buoy is a piece of equipment that is normally used offshore to assist in ‘Man over Board’ incidents, they are designed to both track the casualty and offer buoyancy.

The Buoys being used in Henry Street are very compact, they automatically inflate after being deployed in water, once fully inflated the buoy stands two meters out of the water and is highly visible. The Buoys can digitally tracked via AIS (Automatic Identification System), they are reusable and require no training. One Buoy has already been tested extensively in Limerick City and it proved to be hugely effective.

All recommendations and actions thus far have been in line with the Major Emergency Management (MEM) Framework and the National Search And Rescue Plan. The main aim of the Pilot Project is to buy back seconds in time critical incidents and to protect first responders.

Limerick River Rescue Coordination Group (LRRCG)

LRRCG has moved forward and is a highly effective working group, involving:

  • An Garda Síochána
  • Irish Coast Guard
  • Limerick City Fire & Rescue Service
  • Limerick Marine Search & Rescue
  • Limerick Civil Defence
  • Munster Regional Communications Centre
  • Limerick’s Harbour Master
  • Water Safety IrelandFollow Emergency Times on Social Media @emergencytimes and visit our website emergencytimes.ie
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