Cork's hidden heroes: Civil Defence supporting the frontline in battle against Covid-19

Cork's hidden heroes: Civil Defence supporting the frontline in battle against Covid-19
Cork City Civil Defence volunteers have been deployed in response to the ongoing Covid-19 emergency.

Our healthcare professionals and emergency services have all been deemed the heroes of the pandemic we find ourselves in, working to limit the spread of Covid-19 and treating those who have been infected with the virus.

Heroes who we applaud for and light candles for as small gestures of our support for and our solidarity with them in risking their lives for the wellbeing of others.

Then, there are our hidden heroes.

The volunteers who wear their Civil Defence uniform with pride while assisting the frontline workers and helping to protect the community.

Civil Defence has over 3,500 volunteer members across the country who are trained in casualty, search and rescue, auxiliary fire service, radiation monitoring, welfare, and communications.

Volunteers are now available to support the primary response agencies by providing skills obtained through training which prepares them to respond to any incident where support to the frontline emergency services is required.

Cork City Civil Defence volunteers have been deployed in response to the ongoing Covid-19 emergency and have been supporting the frontline workers in the fight against the virus.

Civil Defence member Peter Spillett joined the voluntary organisation at 19 years old and has been involved in supporting the emergency services for 11 years.

The Blarney native has trained in auxiliary fire service (AFS) and is currently acting as Team Leader of the Cork City Civil Defence unit.

Members of the AFS unit who are second line support to the fire service are trained in pumping and transfer of water to respond and assist with flood relief during a flooding event.

Cork City Civil Defence provides personnel and equipment in support of the Cork City Fire Brigade and members take part in the same training as the fire service.

Mr Spillett said that the unit have a close relationship with Cork City Fire Brigade and praised the crew, many of whom are former members of Civil Defence, for their guidance during training which sees members taking part in Road Traffic Collision (RTC) courses, First Aid Response (FAR) courses, Swiftwater courses, fire engineering courses and pump courses.

The unit also has a Dennis fire engine which is kitted out to the same standards as the fire service vehicles.

Mr Spillett said that being a member of the Cork CIty Civil Defence AFS unit has given him opportunities to further his career and learn skills which are put into practice when the unit is deployed to assist the fire service.

“When Cork flooded in 2009, we were brought into help to pump out the Lee Road Waterworks so we were in there for maybe two or three days helping them and just backing them up with anything that they needed.” 

Cork City Civil Defence member Peter Spillett.
Cork City Civil Defence member Peter Spillett.

Mr Spillett, who was influenced by his father who spent 42 years with Cork City Fire Brigade and who was also a member of Civil Defence, along with his mother and brother, looked up to the work of the emergency services and wanted to give back to the community.

Now, he finds himself in the middle of a global pandemic and at the forefront of helping the primary response agencies.

He said that now more than ever, it’s important to “keep the spirit up”for the community.

“It’s very important to keep the spirit up in the community to show people that there is another agency that can help in any way possible, and with the everyday responsibilities while the main emergency services have to deal with the big responsibilities now, it’s nice for them to see that there’s other agencies there to look out for them as well.

“I love assisting the primary agencies to take any bit of weight off them because they have such a hard job, all the primary agencies like the fire brigade, An Garda Síochána and the HSE, anything to lighten the load off them is mainly why I do it and to give back to the community.

“When I put on my uniform I feel a great sense of pride in it, because it’s nice to give something back to the community.

"You might never meet the person you have helped and you don't look for any medals, you just do it to help in any way you can," he said.

Mr Spillett said that the friendships he has made with fellow members of Civil Defence help in scenarios such as the current pandemic because members “have your back” and understand each other.

“I would be very close to a lot of volunteers and have become great friends with them over the years. You could count on them when you have to go do a job, whether it is to pump water out of a whole or go searching for missing people, you can count on them to have your back.

“They will be there if you want to talk about something after a duty, they’re always there to help you and the people that are involved in Civil Defence are always a good natured person. It’s a great community,” he said.

Cork City Civil Defence members were recently deployed to support the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (ITBS) with their clinic in the City Hall and have now been tasked to assist the HSE with the delivery of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) over the coming days.

Members have made themselves available at the Civil Defence training centre in Ballyvolane to make sure the vehicles and equipment are checked, fuelled, and ready to respond if and when required.

Assistant Officer of Cork City Civil Defence Veronica Forde said that the volunteers’ involvement in the response to the Covid-19 emergency allows them to contribute to the community and utilise the skills they have learned in preparation for an incident such as this.

“There is huge willingness on behalf of the volunteers to play a part in the response to Covid-19 and there are so many roles that can be undertaken whether they are patient facing or non-patient facing but it’s important that everybody is contributing to make up the whole response.

“Everybody is playing a part, regardless of the role, they are all contributing to the overall response.

“I have pride in Civil Defence nationally and at local level for the response that all the volunteers are providing and the pride that they take in being able to contribute. There are so many people behind the campaign to flatten the curve and they value the part that they are playing in contributing to the overall response,” she said.

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