Civil Defence cannot act as first responders to emergency calls

Voluntary group can only respond when requested to do so

Civil Defence cannot act as first responders to emergency calls

Councillors were told this week that Civil Defence personnel cannot act as first resonders to an emergency call.

A meeting of Tipperary County Council heard that the Civil Defence can only provide assistance in such circumstances when asked to do so.

A motion asking Tipperary County Council to reinstate the services of the Civil Defence in Tipperary was withdrawn on Monday

It called for the services of the Civil Defence to include traffic management, first responders to traffic accidents, and first responders to fires.

However councillors were informed that the Civil Defence is a volunteer based organisation which acts as an assistance to frontline emergency services in dealing with severe weather, flooding, major accidents, fire fighting and searching for missing people.

It supports the staging of many community events in conjunction with other principal response agencies (Gardai, HSE and local authorities), but is not a first responder. It can only offer assistance when requested to do so by one of the principal response agencies.

Director of Services Carl Cashin outlined the role of the Civil Defence to members and again reiterated the point that it is not, and cannot ever be, a first responder, under current legislation.

Delores Fahy, Manager of the Civil Defence in Tipperary, pointed out that the primary concern when sending out members to cover an incident, is health and safety of the volunteers and their skillset and training to carry out the duties requested.

"We would love to be able to go out and help every community in the county but unfortunately we are very restricted. If members feel that this needs to change, then you need to do it through legislation.

“Tipperary County Council is trying to achieve the highest possible standards for our staff and we cannot and will not send out people to cover incidents unless they are properly trained and unless we can do it under legislation," she said.

Members expressed disappointment that the Civil Defence cannot assist at funerals and other community events under their own steam.

It was felt that this is a big blow to the rural parts of the county.

Chief Executive Officer of the councl, Mr Joe MacGrath paid tribute to the extraordinary voluntary work undertaken by the Civil Defence as they continue to provide support in all weathers and in all conditions.

And, he pointed out that the whole scenario changed when people were being held personally responsible for sending people out to undertake tasks for which they are not trained.

In other words, there is is no room for ambiguity anymore - the Civil Defence must only act when asked to do so, only then if principal response agencies are present, and only if the members are trained and equipped to do so.

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