Report: South Tipperary Voluntary Emergency Services Exercise
Date: May 10, 09:00 – 17:00
Attendees: Civil Defence, Red Cross, AREN, SEMRA, SARDA, Order of Malta
AREN attendees: John/EI7IG, Richie/EI9HR, Bernard/EI8FDB, Eddie/EI3FFB
South Tipperary Voluntary Emergency Services Exercise
The morning of May 10th, the South Tipperary Voluntary Emergency Services group held a Emergency Services event in Clogheen, Tipperary.
The main focus of the day was meet other voluntary groups, while learning from and educating other groups about AREN’s capabilities.
The main events were displays and exercises (round-robins) which gave attendees an insight into each groups skills.
Organisations in attendance were:
Civil Defence 
Red Cross 
AREN – Amateur Radio Emergency Network 
SEMRA – South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association, along with SARDA, the Search And Rescue Dog Association.  
Order Of Malta 
In all, over 40 voluntary members attended.
Registration began at 9:30 in Clogheen. Attendees from each organisation were split-up into groups made up of other organisation members, helping the cross-organisation communications in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.
The morning began with a short 5 minute introduction to each organisation, its beginnings, its members, what their capabilities are, their equipment, and where they are based.
AREN member, Richie Ryan, EI9HR, gave a very interesting introduction to amateur radio and AREN operations.
One member of each group then went to set-up the round-robin display for the days activities. Each round-robin took approximately 30 minutes. The events were held in the near-by Parsons Green campsite. Each round robin was run in parallel to all the others, and each group moved between them.
The first event was from the Civil Defence members. From the beginning of the Civil Defence in Ireland, radiation monitoring has been the main activity of their “Warden Service”.
The Warden’s role is to take radioactive readings in the event of a radiological incident. Members of the service are trained in many disciplines such as communication procedures and leadership techniques as well as in the reporting of radioactive readings. 
The speakers gave a presentation of the main radiation monitoring techniques – a low-level radiation detector which measures down to normal background radiation levels and a second type of instrument would be used to detect and measure the far higher levels of radioactive fallout resulting from nuclear detonations in war.
The next event was from the Red Cross. The Irish Red Cross Society (IRCS) was established by an Act of the Oireachtas on 1 August 1939. The Irish Red Cross is dedicated to the provision of Emergency and Humanitarian Relief both at home and abroad through its network of volunteers both nationally and internationally.
In Ireland, the Red Cross provides both emergency services through its Mountain Rescue Team as well as a variety of broadly-based community services including youthwork and care for the sick and elderly. 
The Red Cross members gave a very useful introduction to the operation of, and application of an Advisory External Defibrillator (AED). 
An AED is a small, portable piece of equipment that can deliver an electric shock to a victim of cardiac arrest in order to convert the chaotic electrical current of the heart to its normal rhythm.
Every attendee at the day was given the opportunity to practise using an AED and applying CPR.
The instructors stressed the importance of commencing CPR as quickly as possible and the target time for defibrillation is less than 5 minutes.
After the Red Cross display, everyone broke for lunch “al fresco”, out in the sunshine.
After lunch, it was AREN’s turn to show what we can do. 
John, EI7IG, had set-up radio comms capabilities for HF, VHF, UHF, and APRS. John gave an introduction to radio technique, pro-words, and basic radio theory. 
A lot of attendees had some very useful questions regarding radio operation and “what to do with them”.
John had scheduled (and unscheduled) QSOs with some EI stations, including Jim Claffey EI2DDB in Dublin, and John EI2JA in Waterford, on HF by utilising the NVIS antenna setup,  and Robbie, EI2IP, who was mobile near Youghal (through the South East Repeater Network) as he was visible on the Amateur Packet Reporting System (APRS) map visible at the station while a round-robin was taking place.
All-in-all attendees seemed very pleased with AREN’s presentation and made very pleasant comments at the Q&A session at the end.
The final presentation was given by SEMRA. The team was formed in 1977 after an accident occurred in the mountains and a need for such a service was identified. Currently, SEMRA has about 40 members.
The team operate, as their name describes, on the mountains of the South East of Ireland, the Blackstairs, Comeragh, Knockmeasdown and Galtee mountain ranges and all areas in between.
Occasionally they assist other Mountain Rescue teams, such as Dublin/ Wicklow, Glen of Imaal and Kerry MRT’s, An Gardaí, Search & Rescue Dogs Association (SARDA), and The Irish Coastguard. 
The SEMRA presenters organised a search skills exercise for attendees which focused on “common sense skills”.
The exercise entailed searching for objects of various sizes, from a piece of tubing to a pair of glasses, to a child’s toy, all using techniques such as “purposeful wandering”, and “hasty searches”.  
While they maybe common sense skills, we all agreed that carrying out a search, possibly for an object as small as a set of keys on the side of a hill, is something that needs alot of skill, practice and training.
After all groups had attended each round-robin exercise everyone was treated to a demonstration by SARDA, Search And Rescue Dogs Association.
SARDA is a voluntary 999 / 112 emergency search and rescue organisation concerned with the training, assessment and deployment of Air Scenting Search and Rescue Dogs, to search for missing persons in the mountains, woodlands rural and urban areas including rivers, lakes and seashores, as well as avalanches and demolished buildings.
SEMRA setup a search exercise in a very large field, with different terrain. All attendees were asked to line-up, at the bottom of the field, to try and find the “missing object”. 
After 15 minutes and a number of embarrasing “false positives”, Mick Grant and his search dog, Bono, arrived to the “search area”.
All humans constantly emit microscopic particles bearing human scent. Millions of these particles are airborne and are carried by the wind for considerable distances. The air scenting SAR dog is trained to locate the scent of any human in a specific search area. The dog is not restricted to the missing person’s track and can search long after the track is obliterated. 
Within, 3-4 minutes Bono and Mick had found the missing object, a member of SEMRA (wearing camouflage) laying in long grass. They certainly put the rest of us to shame!
After the SARDA demonstration, to close the day we had the final “team-building” event – penalty shoot-out.
After a very tense, nerve-racking shoot-out, as always, the best team won – AREN 3, SEMRA 2, Civil Defence 1.
After the photos were taken, there was a final Q&A session where each attendee gave feedback regarding the day. The general consensus: more events like this, more situation exercises, more time spent at each session.
Back in Clogheen Civil Defence treated us to a very tasty buffet which gave everyone an opportunity to chat about the days happenings.