Volunteers on the virus frontline
The Civil Defence give unpaid service to protect their community in a time of crisis, reports Alan O’Keeffe. Photos by Gerry Mooney
VOLUNTEERS have become frontline workers in the nation’s battle against the Covid-19 virus. Highly-trained members of the Civil Defence are giving their time and effort free of charge to work side by side with healthcare professionals and emergency service personnel in the current crisis.
The volunteers have given up their free time since the health crisis began to help protect their communities from the ravages of the virus.
Photographer Gerry Mooney documented activities of Civil Defence volunteers in Dublin in recent days for the Sunday Independent.
There are 3,500 volunteers in the Civil Defence throughout Ireland. Out of 400 volunteers in Dublin City and County, 50 volunteers are active on any given day in vital roles with a further 120 on standby.
The volunteers bring people to testing centres and also transport them to clinical assessment hubs. The volunteers have been working in mobile clinics operated by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.
Volunteers have been busy delivering food parcels to the families of pupils hit by the loss of school meals when schools closed down. Teams are also helping meals-onwheels services by delivering hot meals to homes.
Volunteer Colm Quinn (40), a father-of-three living in Tallaght, spent a day last week working in a Civil Defence vehicle transporting individuals for virus testing to Tallaght Stadium.
“After each patient is transferred, the vehicle undergoes a deep clean and is disinfected before it is used to collect another person,” said Mr Quinn.
He was dressed from headto-toe in protective clothing as he undertook each deep clean of the vehicle. He sat beside the driver on the trips to and from the test centres. Each vehicle has a perspex panel fitted to protect the health of occupants.
They ferried a wide variety of patients for testing, including taking a young woman from an address in Rathmines to the stadium in Tallaght.
“I am unemployed at the moment and volunteering with the Civil Defence auxiliary fire service is my way of giving something back to Ireland.
“I think it is nice to help out. I’ve learned so much from all the training which is very thorough. It’s been very enjoyable working with other volunteers,” he said.
He spent two further days volunteering at an Irish Blood Transfusion Service mobile clinic in Clonsilla.
Alana Hancheroff (29) works as a trainer for an IT company.
She moved to Ireland from Vancouver 18 months ago and within six months of her arrival she signed up as a volunteer with the Civil Defence search and rescue service in Dun Laoghaire.
Part of her training involved use of personal protection equipment.
“I like helping people and volunteering with the Civil Defence gives me great satisfaction,” she said.
James McConnell is the full-time Civil Defence Officer for the four local authorities in Dublin and he works with two full-time assistant officers.
He said the volunteers operate to the highest standards and a vital task in the current health crisis is ensuring that the vehicles used are fully sanitised after every journey to minimise risks to the public and to the volunteers.
The volunteers do a wide variety of tasks which are important to ensure the campaign against the virus is successful, he said.
Their tasks include getting patients to and from the clinical assessment hubs which are manned by doctors and nurses. Patients are provided with masks and gloves before entering the vehicles.
“Civil Defence volunteers have become frontline workers. It’s vital to minimise the risks,” he said.
VITAL SERVICE: Left, Civil Defence volunteer Alana Hancheroff from Dun Laoghaire wears PPE; above, volunteers Lar Griffin, James Turner, Eoghan Mooney and Lloyd Whelan on duty; right, volunteer Colm Quinn sanitises the patient transport ambulance after bringing a patient from and to their home for testing