THE golden hour is the holy grail of rescue terminology, during which there is the most likely chance of survival following traumatic injury or emergency.
A new pontoon launched by Limerick Marine Search and Rescue at Poor Man’s Kilkee in the city this week, will allow the voluntary service to “shave minutes” off its response times to river callouts, a fact that coxon officer Joe Morgan said was “massive”.
“We have all our equipment sitting on the water, everything is ready to go, it is operational, just pop down, start it and you are gone,” he said of the 24m ramp and two floating docks.
“Rather than towing equipment from our centre and having the danger of towing trailers and reversing down slipways, we are after saving about six minutes off our launch time.
“Every second is crucial, so to save that amount of time in minutes is massive for us, it is a great achievement,” he added.
In the past five years alone, the voluntary service - staffed at present by 28 people - has been tasked to over 250 emergency callouts and has searched for 35 water related missing persons, amounting to 16,500 man hours.
Gerard O’Flynn, search and rescue operations manager for the Irish Coast Guard, praised the service for providing “a really outstanding service” that will be augmented by the new facility launched this week.
“The most important thing about this service is that it is community based and enjoys the full support of the people of Limerick,” he said.
“We like to think that, if anybody goes on the water, particularly in a leisure activity, once they can stay afloat and raise the alarm, then they have an outstanding chance of being rescued. Obviously other circumstances arise as well. You talk about the ‘golden hour’ and minutes are precious when somebody goes into the water,” he added.
For founder member and chairman Tony Cusack, the pontoon - funded to the tune of €70,000 by the JP McManus charitable foundation - represented a “dream come true”.
“It is something that we have planned for the last 15 months and we got terrific support from everybody concerned that we had to go to for planning and funding. JP McManus has been fantastic for the organisation,” he said.
“What it will do for our own resources is it will increase our time to respond to the river, we will be here faster and more efficient to back up the other services that are involved in river rescue.”
Mr Cusack also paid tribute to the “phenomenal support” the people of Limerick have given to the Marine Search and Rescue in its 30 years in operation.