The agenda and planned exercise for an Information Day for the Voluntary Emergency Services in the South East Region, changed course on Saturday last following the recent fire and evacuation emergency at Wexford General Hospital which became a ready-made schedule and exercise scenario in itself.
Report by Declan Keogh for Emergency Times
The Voluntary Emergency Services (VES) in the South East Region includes the Civil Defence, Order of Malta and the Irish Red Cross from counties Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford, and the South East Mountain Rescue Association. All VES groups are supported by the Principal Response Agencies (PRA), which are made up of An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive and the Local Authorities.
A Voluntary Emergency Services Information Day for the Waterford and Wexford areas was hosted on Saturday 4th March last by Wexford County Council at County Hall, Carricklawn, Wexford. The event was coordinated by the VES Sub-group for the South East region, which is Chaired by Wexford Civil Defence Officer (CDO) Peter O’Connor.
Carolyne Godkin, Director of Services for Wexford County Council with responsibilities for Emergency Services, welcomed everyone to the event and thanked them for their contribution to the evacuation of WGH on Wednesday. The training day focussed on the valuable role that the VES can provide in support of the PRA during major events. The day was planned for several months and was to finish with a transportation exercise in support of the HSE in a severe weather event. The events on Wednesday with the fire in Wexford General Hospital changed the schedule of the day and rather than have an exercise the focus was on the events during the evacuation of WGH and the supports provided by the VES.
Each VES made a presentation to the group to outlining their structures, resources, equipment, and capabilities that could be used to support the PRA’s.
Civil Defence Officer Peter O’Connor presented on behalf of Civil Defence, while Paddy Redmond, Area Director of Units presented on behalf of the Irish Red Cross and Officer-in-Charge Adj, Dylan O’Connor presented on behalf of the Order of Malta in Wexford. South East Blood bikes attended also to introduce themselves to the VES and highlight the important work they carry out on a daily and weekly basis.
The PRA’s contributed with presentations on how the voluntary services support them. Marianna Kealy, Inter Agency Emergency Management Officer outlined how the VES and the PRAs are aligned and work together in planning and response to Major Emergency Management in the South East.
The HSE and National Ambulance Service also attended the information day. The HSE’s Mary Rose Fitzgerald delivered a presentation and outlined the HSE structure and the VES support to date.
An Garda Síochána was represented at the event by Inspector Graham Rowley and Sergeant Eddie Wilde who shared a presentation in relation to the response to the hospital dire and their working relationship with the VES.
Ray Murphy, Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Wexford County Fire Service discussed firefighting and operational events at last Wednesday’s fire from both a fire and the VES response.
Linda O Leary, Hospital Manager, Wexford General Hospital attended the event and expressed her gratitude to all present for their professional and timely response to support the hospital evacuation on Wednesday.
Peter O’Connor, CDO and Chair of the VES Sub-Group for the area said the event proved to be hugely beneficial and further training days are planned to continue to enhance the interactions between the VES and the PRA’s.