Morne Mountain Rescue has received £212,000 and Skywatch NI has received £284,000 from the new £2million Covid scheme announced by Minister for Rural Affairs Edwin Poots.
The program will help nine of the Northern Ireland Search and Rescue (NISAR) teams, which rescue some 500 people each year, to purchase essential lifesaving equipment.
Minister Poots traveled to Co Down to deliver letters of offer to organisations. The Minister said: “The organizations I have visited showcase the best of Northern Ireland. They are community organizations that depend entirely on the commitment and dedication of volunteers who often risk their own lives to protect others. Both organizations played a vital role in the fire that scorched the Mournes in April 2021. Morne Mountain Rescue assisted on the ground, while Skywatch NI helped lead the NI Fire and Rescue Service with the thermal imaging from high-tech drones. Without a doubt, their contribution has saved lives, businesses and minimized the impact on biodiversity in the region.
“This funding will allow NISAR teams across the region to purchase essential life-saving equipment such as all-terrain vehicles, defibrillators and fire-resistant PPE.”
The Minister continued: “Throughout the pandemic there has been an increase in the number of people visiting our countryside and using our waterways and in some cases this has resulted in an increase in the level of calls experienced by the services Northern Ireland Search and Rescue. . This program will help improve the responsiveness of NISAR services and ensure the provision of these services in the future.
The first letter of offer was presented to Morne Mountain Rescue who received just over £200,000 to purchase a wide range of gear and personal protective equipment. This includes: a multi-road all-terrain vehicle (ATV); a specially adapted 4 x 4; inflatable shelter; defibrillators; Specialized PPE; and mountain rescue stretchers.
Martin McMullan, Morne Mountain Rescue, said: “The Morne Mountain Rescue Team is an all-volunteer 999 emergency service, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, ready to respond to help those in need. in the event of accident, injury or illness whilst living, working and playing in the greater Morne area.
“As one of the busiest teams on the island of Ireland, with over 100 rescues in the calendar year 2021, the pressures on the team and its specialist resources, including attrition , increased considerably. Funds provided through the DAERA Rural Community Rescue Fund will enable us to expand our resources, reduce pressures and increase the team’s ability to meet ever-increasing demand. We are exceptionally grateful to the Department and its agents for making such a significant contribution to the team and therefore to the wider Morne community as a whole.
The other letter of offer was presented to Skywatch NI which received funding of just over £280,000 for drones, fire resistant PPE, a multi-road all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and rescue vehicles. This equipment will allow Skywatch to use thermal imaging drones to search for missing people and direct the fire department to gorse and wildfires.
Paul Trimble, Skywatch, said: “Skywatch NI is a charity that provides aerial surveillance to statutory services for emergency response. We are delighted to receive this invaluable funding from DAERA. We will use it to buy four wheel drive vehicles, drones and an ATV and these will help provide access to mountains and difficult terrain for search and rescue.
The Minister concluded: “I am delighted to be able to provide this necessary support to community search and rescue services to ensure that our rural open spaces and waterways are safe and attractive to the growing number of visitors we have in our countryside. .