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Emergency Services Test in the Border Region

May 17, 2009

Sunday 17 May 2009

The emergency services engaged in a series of practical medical response tests in the border region this weekend. The tests will help to ensure that the emergency services in the border region of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are well prepared to work together, in the event of a serious accident or natural disaster requiring a large-scale medical response.

Magilligan Training camp in Co. Derry hosted the unique cross border ‘Advanced Life Support’ training and communication exercise, designed to test the ability of both ambulance services, North and South, to work co-operatively and to practice working as single cross border team in dealing with a major medical incident in the border region. Incidents such as a multiple vehicle road traffic accident, an industrial accident or natural disaster are examples of situations where both emergency services might need to work together.


Over two days the ambulance crews, with the support of the other emergency services from the Territorial Army Medical Services, the Irish Army Air Corps and the RAF, learned from experts and dealt with a number of realistic emergency situations specially created for training purposes – the type of situations that they would be likely to come across at the scene of an actual major medical emergency. This included practice in transferring casualties by air; treating a family trapped in a car with a range of serious injuries; extracting and treating casualties from confined spaces and from smoke and fume filled buildings due to fire; and dealing with circulatory and respiratory collapse. Participants had the opportunity to use sophisticated medical equipment and to practice their advanced life saving skills through ‘hands-on’ practical exercises, along with their counterparts from the other jurisdiction.

This new event is a further development of two previous major medical emergency planning exercises held in the border region which provided the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Republic of Ireland’s National Ambulance Service with practical opportunities to work together so that their readiness for a real medical emergency is further enhanced.

The weekend long exercise was sponsored by the cross border health services partnership, Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT).  CAWT’s Director General, Colm Donaghy speaking about the importance of the cross border training exercise said: “this event provides both ambulance services on the island and the other emergency services such as the fire and rescue services, to acquire new knowledge, to engage in team working with colleagues in the other jurisdiction and to build relationships, so that if a serious medical incident in the border region did happen, they would be better prepared to handle the challenges. All in all it has been a valuable and worthwhile exercise”.

The Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Michael McGimpsey MLA, commended the valuable learning opportunity that had been taken by members of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service’s Rapid Response Team. He said:  “Their active engagement in this weekend’s cross border exercise, not only helped to validate their ‘Advanced Life Support’ training under difficult circumstances; but also confirmed their commitment to provide these essential services across the whole of Northern Ireland, and where necessary, in support of ambulance colleagues responding to incidents in the Republic of Ireland.”

The Minister for Health and Children, Ms Mary Harney T.D., commenting on the cross border exercise said:  “I want to acknowledge the enormous effort and preparations that went into co-ordinating this weekend’s highly successful cross border training event. This is the third year running that a range of personnel from the ambulance, fire and rescue services and the military, both North and South, have gathered in the border region to work together to strengthen their advanced life saving skills. It is reassuring to know that, in the event of a major medical incident in the border region, our emergency services are better prepared to provide a co-ordinated response across both jurisdictions.”

The Director of the National Ambulance Service College in the Republic, Macartan Hughes referred to the importance of such multi-disciplinary training opportunities and said: “Every rescue, every emergency patient care process is completed over a short but demanding time-frame through a team approach. No one individual or service can operate effectively in isolation. Training opportunities such as this cross border event offer a unique ability for each of the emergency services, civilian and military, to update and develop clinical skills, enhance inter-service working and examine and integrate the best practices of other services into the continuum of care for our patients on either side of the border. CAWT has managed again to bring all of the services together to achieve this goal through a partnership and patient focused approach. Such partnerships will continue to serve patients in the coming months and years.”

This view was echoed by Dr David McManus, Medical Director, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service who said: “This is an invaluable opportunity to increase awareness of, and share knowledge and experience of, new techniques in the management of the seriously injured. It also provides an opportunity to enhance inter agency working and relations.”

The event is being independently evaluated with a view to making recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the cross border response to a major medical incident.



Sadie Bergin
Communications Manager, Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT)
Tel: 028 7127 2100 or 00 44 28 7127 2100 (from RoI)
Mob: 077 6420 4430 / 00 44 77 6420 4430 (from RoI)

Notes to Editor

The aim of the cross border emergency services test is:

To test the individual Advanced Life Support (ALS) skills of paramedic course participants.
To exercise and test paramedic course participants in the application of their ALS skills whilst jointly working in challenging and difficult environments.
To assist the Ambulance Services from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to strengthen their ability to provide mutual support in the event of a major medical emergency.
The exercise is supported by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service; the National Ambulance Service – Republic of Ireland; the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service; the Territorial Army Medical Services, the Royal Air Force and the Irish Army Air Corps.

Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) is a cross border health and social care partnership comprising the border counties of the Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland includes the Southern and Western Health and Social Care Trusts and Health and Social Care Board. CAWT manages a range of cross border health and social care programmes funded by the European Union INTERREG IVA programme.