The Voluntary Services and Training Division is responsible for the management of:
- all Irish Coast Guard coastal units
- Community Rescue Boats Ireland
- other voluntary search and rescue organisations
- mountain and cave rescue
- logistics (stores, equipment, buildings, vehicles) and training of IRCG full-time and voluntary staff
The Coast Guard volunteer network is strategically positioned around the coastline of Ireland and on the inland waterways. There are 44 units with 1000 volunteers available 24/7/365.
Teams are called out by the Coast Guards national digital paging system operated from MRCC/SCs and should not be contacted locally except after initial contact is made with the Coordination Centre.
The expected response criteria for the Irish Coast Guard volunteer units is to:
- achieve a 90% response time of 10 minutes for an initial response team departing the Stationhouse from notification by an MRCC/MRSC during daylight and 20 minutes at night
- achieve a 90% response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by an MRCC/SC during daylight and 75 minutes at night subject to geographical limitations
Volunteer Units are all equipped with search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles (Quads), first aid equipment and training, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment.
Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a variety of maritime skills. Certain units are also equipped and trained as cliff rescue units and can either respond locally or be air lifted to an incident.
Other teams strategically located along the coast are equipped with either rescue, patrol or transport inshore craft in the 49m range. An Officer in Charge (3 stripes) assisted by a Deputy Officer in Charge (2 stripes) manages each unit.
Protection against pollution
The Irish Coast Guard has a very important role with regard to the protection of the ocean and the coasts against pollution. In the case of an imminent pollution accident, the Irish Coast Guard has the right to intervene in ships' operations, and the organisation bears the responsibility to do everything within its power to prevent pollution accidents.
The Irish Coast Guard is responsible for developing and co-ordinating an effective regime for:
- preparedness and response to spills of oil and other hazardous substances within the Irish Pollution Responsibility Zone
- providing an effective response to marine casualty incidents
- monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations
The Irish Coast Guard:
- provides and maintains 24 hour marine pollution notification at the three Marine Rescue Centres
- develops approved pollution response plans in all harbours and ports, oil handling facilities, marine local authorities and offshore installations
- provides and maintains a national stockpile of pollution equipment
- co-ordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans on an ongoing basis
The Irish Coast Guard is the representative of the wider public interest in the protection of the environment following a marine incident where there is pollution or a significant threat of pollution. Irish Coast Guard customers are the commercial and recreational users of the sea, harbour and local authorities whose livelihood, property and amenities might be damaged in a pollution incident and or their lives put at risk.
Engineering and logistics
The Irish Coast Guard is responsible for the communications infrastructure to support the Marine Rescue Centres. They maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites situated around the Irish coastline and a national digital paging system.
In addition there are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. These resources are wireline connected through to the manned control centres at Dublin, Malin Head and Valentia. Responsibility is also extended to the communications equipment in use by the Coast Guard volunteers around the Irish coastline.