My favourite thing about volunteering is the ability to step into another world for a few hours a week or a few hours at the weekend. I always had a passion for emergency services work, but I decided not to pursue it as a career and went for the tech industry instead. Civil Defence provides me with some exposure into that world, and the opportunity to work with people from all different industries and walks of life who all have a common interest in what we do with Civil Defence.
My name is David Good and I have always had a keen interest in technology and how it can be an advantage to people in everyday life. I am an Android Developer on the SafeTrx team at 8 West Consulting, Cork, Ireland. SafeTrx is a free mobile application used by members of the maritime community. The app allows users to be tracked while they are on the water, so people at home (and most importantly the Coast Guard) can see their current location if they get into difficulty. There is an alert system on the app that allows the user to trigger an alert on the monitoring console of the Coast Guard – the Coast Guard will have the user’s details, current location, and details about their vessel. The application also enables users to create planned journeys, with ETAs and Emergency contacts that can be alerted if the user has not returned when they said they would. The Irish Sailing SafeTrx app is available on the Google Play Store and iTunes store.
Outside of work, I spend time gaming or bingeing on Netflix, but what I really love doing outside of work is volunteering for Civil Defence Ireland. I have been a volunteer for the last 7 years. Back when I was in secondary school, I wanted to join the Fire Service. I still had a few years left of school at the time. I had heard Civil Defence would be a good stepping stone for this, so I applied to join. From the very first training session I attended, I knew this was for me.
Civil Defence Ireland’s primary role is to support the Principal Response Agencies when they require assistance. These agencies are the National Ambulance Service, An Garda Siochana, and the Local Authority/Fire Service. For example, Civil Defence is often activated during adverse weather conditions to assist in a few different capacities. During Storm Emma in 2018, Civil Defence Ireland was very active nationwide assisting the Ambulance Service with transporting patients using the organisation’s 4×4 vehicles and equipment. Search and Rescue is also a big part of Civil Defence, as the organisation can provide extra personnel and equipment. All volunteers in Civil Defence are trained to a very high standard – weekly training combined with interagency exercises make sure we are ready to assist, whatever the situation may be. Civil Defence also has a community support role, where volunteers can provide Ambulance and first aid cover for local events, such as at the recent Saint Patrick’s Day parade.
Civil Defence provides training in a range of disciplines. These include Communications, First Aid, Search and Rescue, and Auxiliary Fire Service. I would say one of the most important things I have learned from Civil Defence is the ability to work in a team. Whether it is out on a Search for a missing person or on a First Aid duty for a large event, it is important to know your team and know that you can rely on those around you.
Civil Defence Ireland is divided up into many units nationally. I volunteer with the Cork City unit, so I would do most of my volunteer work within the City area. One particularly memorable emergency call I’ve had was during Storm Desmond in 2016. There was significant rainfall in a relatively short amount of time. Civil Defence was activated due to the threat of flooding. I remember attending an area that had been struck down with flooding before and it had a detrimental effect on local homes and businesses. We were assisting the Fire Brigade and local Council with sandbags and pumping flood water. I guess the reason this one stands out is that we were working alongside other agencies seamlessly and we had one common goal: to help those that were in need. Civil Defence was at this call for over 12 hours, until well into the early hours of the following morning. I guess this call just showed the determination and resilience of volunteers willing to help people in their time of need.
Health and Safety has become a large aspect of all workplaces, and Civil Defence is no different. We may be volunteers, but we have rules to follow and regulations to comply with. Although we do Search in areas people may not necessarily normally go to, there is always a risk assessment before we undertake a task – if a risk is deemed too great, volunteers will not be put in a dangerous position. Technology has also greatly advanced our ability to remove risks when searching. Drones are now being utilised on searches to increase speed, efficiency and safety, as now drones can search areas deemed too risky to send volunteers in.
Having been a Civil Defence volunteer for the last 7 years, I have learned so much. I guess my long-term goal would be to eventually become a Civil Defence instructor so that I can help train others and share the skills and knowledge I have learned through years of volunteering.
I see a lot of similarities between my volunteer work and my current job. My involvement with Civil Defence gives me an insight into the world of search and rescue in many aspects, including on the water, so this greatly helps me while working. I have a good understanding of the importance of safety on the water, and what works for Rescue agencies and what doesn’t.
I would think my experiences with Civil Defence have been directly beneficial to my technological career. From one perspective, they have helped me keep up to date with the latest technologies in the field, such as drone technology and the latest in communication and mapping software. As well as this, it has helped me progress some non-tech related skills that are relevant to my career. These include teamwork, leadership, and general communication skills within the workplace.
Civil Defence is a fantastic organisation to be involved with. There is some commitment involved, but the skills and knowledge you gain are invaluable. I would encourage anyone interested in becoming a volunteer to check out their local Civil Defence unit, particularly if you want to give something back to your community and advance your skills in areas you may not be able to in your current occupation. My advice would be to dive into the experience and you will get out just as much as you give to the organisation.
The tech industry was always seen as people who are shut-ins, antisocial, and just live to code. This perception has evolved for many years, so I think it is very important that we share with each other, and with the rest of the world, that there is more to us techies than meets the eye. By sharing what we do in our spare time, it may inspire others to expand their horizons. There is always more than tech, and if you can somehow integrate tech with your hobby, all the better!
To read more about Civil Defence Ireland, and how to join, be sure to check the following link: