Members of Kilkenny Civil Defence
With frontline health services under increasing strain, it is all hands on deck for the courageous volunteers of Kilkenny Civil Defence, who are rising to the challenge of Covid-19.
Just prior to Christmas, the council held an awards ceremony to honour the volunteers and present them with certificates for completing various successful training exercises. Back then, no one could have imagined what was to come in the springtime, or the role they would be called upon to perform.
Kilkenny’s Civil Defence Officer Katherine Peacock says that in spite of the serious and stressful nature of it, the spirit among volunteers is one of fellowship and willingness to answer the call.
“They are extremely positive,” says Katherine. “There is a real sense of camaraderie nationally, and they want to be part of this, and support the gardaí, the local authorities, the HSE.
“They give up their time all year round — they want to help and are ready to help. They put an awful lot into this training. It is an opportunity to put all of that into practice and do something for the community.”
Similarly to other sectors, the outbreak has seen former members get back in touch to put on the green jersey.
“We have about 25 volunteers willing and ready to take on whatever role is needed,” says Katherine. “Lots of people have been in touch. It’s really good, because many of them have fantastic skills.”
One of the big stories in recent days has been the shortage of fit-for-purpose Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical staff. Presciently, Katherine organised the purchase of a quantity of PPE well before the extent of the impact of Covid-19 was becoming clear.
“I feel I have enough at the moment for the volunteers, but no one knows how long this will go on,” she says.
“We are taking on Covid-facing as well as non-Covid facing [activities]. So, I have enough for now, but long-term, no.”
In recent weeks, the unit here has been helping out transferring patients to and from hospital and homes. Many calls are from worried relatives of people. Oftentimes, they are cases where normally a family member would be doing it, but they are now stuck elsewhere, social distancing, or cocooning if over 70. They will be looking after non-urgent calls for the National Ambulance Service from after Easter.
In Kilkenny, the Civil Defence have two ambulances, a communications vehicle (with wifi, computers, monitors), a van, a minibus, and four 4x4 jeeps. Nationally, they also have a lot of useful equipment — tents, camp beds, a temporary morturary, should the need arise.
“All that has been collated nationally and can be put to use,” confirms Katherine. “At some point, all will be engaged in different roles.”
Katherine reckons that Irish people are very good at helping, but often not as good at asking for help. She urges people to contact the helpline or resilience desk if there’s anything they need.
“Pick up the phone and ask,” she says. “There are people here ready and willing to help them. They are not putting us out — we want to be able to help them.”
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