Hometown Heroes: Blackpool native Amanda is blazing a trail with the Civil Defence

Hometown Heroes: Blackpool native Amanda is blazing a trail with the Civil Defence

Civil Defence volunteer Amanda O'Donovan at a booting duty down in Cork Docks.

Amanda O'Donovan (30) from Cork city, took a meandering road to her profession but has been a stalwart civil defence volunteer since she was 18 years old.

Amanda originally studied Zoology, specialised in Marine Biology and spent a year working at the Fota Wildlife Park as an education teacher with a special focus on the lemurs. She then went on to do a masters in IT and has been working in the field ever since.

Throughout her studies and career progression, Amanda has given her time, energy and focus to helping others in the Cork City Civil Defence.

“I always wanted to be a fire woman, so when I joined Civil Defence, my primary unit was the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) based in the North Ring road next to the Fire Station. I loved the opportunities that Civil Defence opened up for me and the experiences it brought so over the years I moved into the Casualty and Boat unit of Civil Defence. I was allowed to get a small taster of the firefighting life and also pursue other career options.” 

The Blackpool native said that she enjoyed the skills progression facilitated by the civil defence and appreciated the experiences she has had as a member of the organisation.

“I have been fortunate enough to gain my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in the Casualty Unit, my Coxian’s licence in the Boating Unit and I’ve also run through multiple Road Traffic Collision courses in the AFS unit. One week we can be participating in an extreme driving course and the next week assisting the An Garda Síochana in Cork City with a missing person.” 

Describing the types of duties she has been asked to do as a member of the Civil Defence, Amanda said it was a varied and diverse list.

“Civil Defence duties are rarely standard - which is one of my primary draws to the organisation. One duty may be helping to provide First Aid to the public for the Cork City Christmas Markets where we get to wander through the markets and take in the festivities.

Civil Defence volunteer Amanda O'Donovan with David Hagerty (left and Colm Rawly (right) during the recent flooding in Cork city.
Civil Defence volunteer Amanda O'Donovan with David Hagerty (left and Colm Rawly (right) during the recent flooding in Cork city.

“Another duty could be based within the First Aid tent for the Cork City Marathon where you will not have a free moment and every single element of your first aid training is now being put to the test.” 

Amanda said the First Aid tent for the Cork City Marathon is “mindblowing” in terms of the things you encounter.

“Unless you are in that tent, you don’t see the damage some runners do to themselves. It is like a mini ER.” 

At the moment Amanda said that volunteers from the Civil Defence had been helping out at blood banks, vetting blood donors as they arrive for an appointment and ensuring they are well before they leave.

During Covid, Amanda was tasked with attending the Cork and Kerry Inter-Agency Emergency Management Office (IAEMO) which was set up to efficiently and effectively react to the demands of the pandemic.

“The room was set up to become the single point of contact for the Fire Brigade, An Garda Siochana, and the council to go to for assistance.

“In Civil Defence, I underwent Major Emergency Management training that allowed me to give time and help to this new office. During my training, the Emergency scenarios were often related to a pharmaceutical disaster, or significant fires or flooding. These emergencies are extremely fast-paced and evolve from one hour to the next rather significantly.

“Covid presented a far more unique emergency. The team quickly realised that this would last significantly longer than any other Emergency situation they had experienced.

“Each day we had calls from an army of volunteers waiting to give their time, energy and money into tackling Covid. There were an untold amount of companies in Cork and Kerry who offered their services, be it giving their time, giving us their use of a fleet of vehicles or donating all their PPE to the hospitals and care homes. Our main problem in the IAEMO was having too many volunteers with not enough tasks to spread around. An outstanding problem to have.” 

The volunteer said there is a great comradery and brilliant atmosphere among the Civil Defence.

“We end up relying on each other and we understand each other's strengths and weaknesses. It teaches you some outstanding soft skills that can be implemented throughout every aspect of life.

“Civil Defence has taught me how to work with every type of personality, how to prioritise and how to respond to high-pressure situations in a professional manner. Most importantly - it helps me be a team player.” 

When she is not volunteering, Amanda likes to spend time with her partner Steve and their collie mix dog ‘Shadow’ in Kanturk where they live. The pair had planned to marry last July with Amanda’s maid of honour, her best friend and Civil Defence comrade, Niamh O’Shea. The wedding has since been postponed until 2023.

“Before Covid, our unit would have social gatherings once a week. There are a few couples who have met through the Civil Defence. We go to each others’ weddings, we socialise together. We are a very close-knit group.” 

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