Video: NI Water radio towers a ‘game-changer’ that will help Foyle Search and Rescue save lives, says operations officer Sean Edwards

Foyle Search & Rescue’s Sean Edwards has said the provision by NI Water of three radio towers to enhance the charity’s telecom capabilities is a ‘game-changer’ that will save lives.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 5:08 pm

He was speaking after the utility opened radio facilities at towers at Sheriff’s Mountain in Derry and at Tullywhisker, near Ardstraw, and at Temain Hill, outside Drumsurn.

“Without this offer we are very limited in what we can do. It’s an amazing offer by these guys.

“It’s a game-changer for us, absolutely,” said the river rescue charity’s operations officer.

Pictured at the handover of radio tower facilities by NI Water to Foyle Search and Rescue were, back row from left, Carole McAleer, Foyle Search and Rescue, Pearse Bradley, Head of Telemetry & Telecoms, NI Water, Paul McCafferty, Anthony McMenamin, Foyle Search and Rescue, and Emmet Thompson, St. Eugene's Cathedral pastoral care, front row, Christina McKeegan, Foyle Search and Rescue, Bertie McShane, Telecom Facilities manager, NI Water, Stephen Bush, Shared Services officer, NI Water, and Sean Edwards, Foyle Search and Rescue. DER0720-127KM

NI Water has provided the radio tower facilities to allow greater radio coverage for the highly-esteemed Derry charity, in order to allow it to respond even more quickly to emergency call-outs.

The improvement in communications will undoubtedly help save lives, it believes.

NI Water’s Telecoms Facilities Manager Bertie McShane said: “NI Water has provided radio tower facilities to support the valuable work of Foyle Search and Rescue.

“The charity has a radio network which is essential to life saving operations and enables instant communications for pager volunteers who respond from home and work to emergency calls.

“The network allows for volunteers to be co-ordinated as soon as pagers are activated and save vital minutes which could be the difference between a life lost or a life saved.”

The location of the three towers, in Derry, Northwest Tyrone and the Roe Valley, will provide better coverage right along the Foyle river valley.

Mr. Edwards said: “Technology has moved on significantly in the 26 years since Foyle Search and Rescue was first founded, and mobile radio technology now gives us direct access to statutory services for calls of assistance.”

As Foyle Search and Rescue’s expertise has grown over the past quarter of a century, both the demand for its services and its geographical reach and range have also grown.

However, the quality of radio coverage in certain areas of the Foyle is variable.

“There have been areas that have been black spots for us in the past. This is going to expand our range as well as our coverage.

“We find we are getting called out more outside the river here to other areas and this is going to really enhance our communication capabilities here and eliminate a lot of the black spots as well,” said Mr. Edwards.

The decision by NI Water to open up three of the 100 radio masts it owns across the North is a fantastic boost for the local charity.

“Having this new radio system and improved radio tower facilities at three NI Water sites, will allow us to communicate more efficiently, and travel further afield in times of emergency.

“The charity can be called on at any time to assist in an emergency, not only in the North West, but across Northern Ireland, assisting in flooding and other rescue and recovery operations, in areas such as Strabane and Limavady but even as far afield as Belfast if requested.

“Having a modern and up to date form of communication is absolutely essential to the volunteers at Foyle Search and Rescue, who give up their time to selflessly help others,” Mr. Edwards added.

Mr. McShane said the Foyle Search organisation was a wonderful charity that NI Water was thrilled to be in partnership with.

“We’re absolutely delighted for NI Water to be part of the Foyle Search and Rescue communications.

“We’re letting them hold three sites with us.

“We’re producing the licences today for them to sign and we are absolutely delighted to be a part of it,” remarked the utility’s telecoms chief.”

Mr. Edwards reserved a special word of thanks to the clergy and staff at St. Eugene’s Cathedral and the Parish of Templemore in Derry who supported the link-up.

He said the project had moved a lot quicker than had been expected thanks to the parish’s involvement and support.

“It was extremely uplifting for everyone at the charity to hear about this social outreach campaign,” said the Foyle Search operations coordinator.

“We rely so much on the help and support of local people and to hear that local people have got together to back this campaign and continue in their support of us has been incredibly humbling for us all,” he added.