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20th February 2019 | Marine, Press Releases

Not allowing Coast Guard volunteers to use their emergency lights could lead to loss of life and needs to be addressed: Greens

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Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan has expressed concerns in relation to a new directive on the use of emergency vehicle blue lights by Coast Guard staff.

“I’ve been speaking to Coast Guard volunteers on the ground,” said the Senator, who is a former emergency services volunteer herself.

“This is not good news as far as they’re concerned. It’s top-down bureaucracy that makes no sense when it comes to the day to day activities of emergency personnel trying to do their job.”

The Coast Guard directive states that staff and volunteers are now banned from using blue lights and sirens when making their way to emergency incidents. They are permitted to use blue lights when the vehicle is stationary. Officials say the directive is about mitigating risk.

“The Coast Guard HQ are claiming that this is about safety concerns and risks for the drivers and the general public, but if a volunteer is trying to make their way to an emergency situation and is stuck in traffic, lives could be lost.”

While an emergency vehicle code, implemented in 2015, states that only staff above the grade of Divisional Officer may use flashing blue lights and sirens on public roads, the code is a voluntary one.

“The reality on the ground is that volunteers travelling on emergency call-outs are first and foremost trying to get there as safely and quickly as possible. They are not allowed to break speed limits. This is about saving lives.”

Senator Grace O’Sullivan is Green Party Spokesperson on Environmental Protection, Natural Resources, Marine & Tourism. She is a qualified lifeguard  former Irish Water Safety instructor and volunteer with Tramore Sea and Cliff Rescue.