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Civil Defence volunteers to support Parish Walk 13 June 2008

THE Isle of Man’s Civil Defence Unit will play an important support role in this year’s Clerical Medical Parish Walk.

Volunteers are returning to active service on the 2008 event and will be on hand around the course to provide communication and first-aid back-up. They will also light the way for competitors walking through the night by setting up generators and floodlights at key points in the north of the Island in addition to the finish area near the War Memorial on Douglas Promenade.

A total of 15 members will be involved, working in three shifts to ensure cover from mid-afternoon on Saturday through to the early hours of Sunday morning. Their involvement marks a return to the Parish Walk for the Civil Defence Unit - which falls under the umbrella of the Department of Home Affairs - after an absence of about 15 years.

Volunteers used to provide radio communications through the night sections, but that requirement was phased out as the use of mobile phones became more widespread. However, the increased popularity of the Parish Walk in recent times has posed a series of new logistical challenges that in turn have led to the re-engagement of the Civil Defence Unit.

Race organisers met with Assistant Emergency Planning Officer Ian Young and Training Officer Jim Macgregor last year to discuss what Civil Defence personnel could bring to the event. Planning meetings were then held to match the requirements of the organisers with the resources available in respect of volunteers, vehicles and equipment.

Mr Macgregor has joined forces with Commandant Tony Glen and Deputy Commandant Ann Birtles to co-ordinate the Civil Defence efforts over recent months. The main focus has been on working in partnership with the other agencies and medical support staff – such as St John Ambulance - to improve safety for all those involved in the 2008 Parish Walk. To that end, CD volunteers will offer static and mobile first-aid support, communication back-up and additional lighting at Andreas Church, St Jude’s Crossroads and Douglas Promenade.

A Civil Defence control vehicle will be stationed at the finish line to assist race organisers and timekeepers, while another vehicle will act as a ‘road open’ car by tracking the last walker along the Sloc into Peel. Volunteers have been brushing up on their first-aid skills and will meet a podiatrist in the days leading up to the Parish Walk for advice on how to deal with blisters and other common foot injuries.

Minister for Home Affairs Martyn Quayle MHK said:

‘The Civil Defence Unit provides a valuable service in many different aspects of community safety in the Isle of Man. The professionalism and dedication of its members is to be applauded and I’m sure the Parish Walk can only benefit from their expertise and support.’

Emergency Planning Officer Martin Blackburn added:

‘Our volunteers have been very enthusiastic about becoming involved in the Parish Walk again and some will be working long hours to provide the necessary cover. It is a tremendous community event and the sheer weight of numbers and volume of traffic throws up logistical challenges that the Civil Defence Unit is more than willing and able to help with. We hope our medical support will not be required beyond the treatment of blisters and the odd sprain, but our volunteers have been undergoing extra first-aid training and are ready to help. Our involvement in the Parish Walk will also act as a useful training opportunity in terms of logistical planning, communication and first-aid support. It ticks all the boxes and it is much more realistic to provide cover for an actual event than to dream up training exercises. It will also improve our links with other voluntary organisations.’

The deployment of Civil Defence members around the course means they will be able to cheer on fellow volunteer John Callow who is taking part in the event. John is an experienced Parish Walk competitor and has set his sights on completing the full 85-mile distance for the third time.

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