THE Killaloe Coast Guard Unit has launched an appeal for new volunteers to fill some vacancies in its unit.
With 16 male and three female members in the current search and rescue service, the unit is seeking to recruit at least three new members, as a few other volunteers may leave over the coming months, due to work commitments.
Led by officer in charge (OIC), Joe Doolan, the unit is Government-funded and doesn’t have to fundraise, unlike its predecessor, the Killaloe Ballina Search and Rescue Service.
Acknowledging that training and call-outs were “time-consuming”, deputy OIC, Damien Madden insists it is also “very rewarding” for members who are involved in rescuing people from the lake or aftermishaps on land.
“It is a great service for the community. Anyone who is using Lough Derg and gets into trouble, knows we are there at the end of a call by contacting 999 or 112. Once we are called out, we are normally in the water within five or seven minutes of being paged.
“When you go out to rescue someone on the lake, the relief on their faces is very rewarding. Anyone who has joined up, loves it. We have a few vacancies, due to emigration and work commitments,” he said.
Training for new members is normally completed over a two-year period. It includes occupational first aid, VHF radio licence and a land search skills course over the first year. This is followed by powerboat Level One and Level Two courses, before members have the option of advancing up to coxwain and specialised land search management courses.
In addition to weekly training on Wednesday nights, a simulated incident lasting up to four hours, to assess members’ skills sets, is organised on the last Sunday of every month. It is evaluated by Mr Doolan and Mr Madden.
This helps the unit to identify if there is any aspect of their search and rescue, which needs to be improved.
It has been an extremely busy year for the unit, including two searches for missing people that overlapped, resulting in 39 days in total. To avoid the risk of burnout, the unit had to seek the assistance of other search and rescue units, such as Doolin Coastguard, Mallow Search and Rescue and Limerick Search and Rescue, as well as the Clare and North Tipperary Civil Defence.
Mr Madden came to live in Ballina about 11 years ago and joined the Killaloe Ballina Search and Rescue Service a year later. He works with a pest control company, which provides him with the flexibility to leave work and respond to a call.
Weekends are the busiest time for the unit, meaning he can’t leave the locality.
The unit has two response jeeps and one eight-metre Redbay Rib vessel with a two 115 horsepower engines, which is sitting in the floating pontoon ready to launch.
It also has a four-metre D-Class Rib with 40 horsepower engine in base at Pier Head, on a trailer ready to respond to any incident outside Ballina and Killaloe or the lakes around Clare and Tipperary.
A mobile command unit trailer, which members bought themselves following fundraising under the previous KBSR structure, is another very useful piece of equipment to respond to incidents in the region.