N15S1PicAWhen most of us are tucked up in our beds or enjoying a night on the town, a group of dedicated volunteers are busy patrolling the city’s waters.
Brothers Declan and Darryl Barry established Waterford Marine Search & Rescue in 2010 with the aim of providing a 24/7 search and rescue service.
The organisation operates a suicide prevention patrol system on Saturday nights, but this is just one valuable aspect of Waterford Marine Search & Rescue’s work.
Last week, I caught up with Declan Barry who explained the background to the organisation and the difference which it has made locally.
When the brothers first established Waterford Marine Search & Rescue, their main objective was to reduce the number of lives lost on the River Suir in the city.
“We looked at how we could prevent people from entering the water. We put a structure in place so that on weekends we would patrol the River Suir by putting a boat on it, having a van on Rice Bridge, and people walking along The Quay,” he explained.
“We now have 40 members in the organisation. They all have various different roles that involve fundraising, Saturday night patrols, working as part of the flood rescue team, and search, rescue and recovery.”
Since 2010, 16 people have been saved from the River Suir and John’s River and 53 people have been prevented from entering the river through suicide prevention patrols.
The figures for 2013 alone speak for themselves.
No lives were lost to the River Suir in Waterford City in 2013; crews turned out to 26 incidents; took two people alive from water; prevented eight people from entering the water to take their own lives; towed four boats to safety; conducted eight searches; and treated four people for First Aid.
Additionally, 89 ring buoys were recovered from the water; 202 ring buoy ropes recoiled; and 94 ring buoys replaced.
“If a member of the public arrives on the scene, they can initially throw a life ring to someone who may be in difficulty in the water. The most important thing with life rings is to make sure they are there. We’ve nearly doubled the amount of life rings in the city,” Declan explained.
Crews and volunteers have clocked up over 400 hours, excluding the many hours spent training.
Training is held around four nights each week.
“There is a huge commitment from all of the members. Without all the members, the club wouldn’t be as successful as it is,” said Declan.
The age profile of members ranges from 18 to 60, with both males and females well represented.
All members are trained in dealing with people who are feeling suicidal.
Members have been busy throughout the past few days dealing with the recent bad flooding.
“All of our members do it for the love of helping people and saving people,” said Declan.
“They get enjoyment from learning how to save people’s lives and motivating themselves to go out and do something different. There is a great satisfaction from helping other people.”
As Waterford Marine Search & Rescue does not receive funding, members engage in various fundraising activities themselves such flag days, bag packing etc.
Later this year, it’s hoped to hold a race night as well as a range of other initiatives to help raise additional money
The organisation is also seeking the support of the public and businesses of Waterford to help build a state of the art rescue centre in the city.
“We’re looking to raise €100,000 to build a state of the art rescue centre in the city where we can work out of and where there will be a room for families to go,” explained Declan.
“If anyone can do anything for us we would be delighted if they could come on board.”
The Barry brothers were recognised for their great efforts in December when they received a prestigious Volunteer Ireland award.
Declan was among the many speakers at last weekend’s Mental Health & Suicide Awareness conference which took place at The Park Hotel, Dungarvan.
The conference, hosted by Waterford County Council, explored issues surrounding mental health and suicide in Ireland and heard from a number of eminent speakers.
Declan spoke about Waterford Marine Search & Rescue and the establishment of the suicide prevention patrols.
The patrol idea has already started to spread nationwide, with several other organisations adopting the same approach based on Waterford’s success.
Similar services are now in operation in Limerick and Wexford.
“These patrols are effective and are saving lives,” said Declan.
The brothers aim to continue training and want to ensure that Waterford Marine Search & Rescue provides an even bigger and better service into the future.
“Along with the Gardai and Waterford City Fire Service, it’s a massive team effort,” he said.
“It’s nice thing to be able to say that no lives were lost to the River Suir in the city in 2013.”
For more information visit www.waterfordmarinesearchandrescue.ie or check out their Facebook page.
Kieran Foley