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

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Coronaviru­s -

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

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