On Wednesday and Thursday last, you may have noticed heavy military vehicles and troops out and about in the City, Tramore and the Portlaw areas. This was all about ensuring Waterford is suitably prepared for extreme weather conditions, with the future support of the Army.

The Irish Defence Forces Major Emergency Management Regional Working Group Brief for the South East Region, took place earlier this month in Kilkenny. On Wednesday 29th November, the second phase of this exercise, code named “Bi Ullamh”, started and took place across Waterford City and County. The two day exercise saw a simulated scenario, based around an extended period of heavy rain, combined with severe/extreme astronomical tides causing heavy localised flooding, along the River Suir and throughout our outlying coastal areas.

Waterford’s Cllr Eddie Mulligan, with his Defence Force background, acted act as local liaison, in the preparation and during the lead up. The exercise began with a briefing for all supporting/collaborating agencies, which included Waterford Council, An Garda Síochána, Waterford City Civil Defence, National Ambulance Service (NAS), ESB Networks, Waterford City Fire Service and The Irish Coastguard. In addition, Councillors Jim Griffin, Blaise Hannigan and Declan Clune attended.

The briefing and exercises were conducted in preparation for Winter 2017/2018 and highlighted the personnel, capabilities, equipment and vehicles the Defence Forces have at their disposal to other agencies. The exercises were conducted by the 3rd Infantry Battalion, from James Stephens’ Barracks Kilkenny and consisted of 31 troops or one platoon.

Cllr Mulligan was acknowledged by “Bi Ullamh” exercise Commander, Colonel Mark Brownen.

The briefs and presentations were conducted by the Officer Commanding the 3rd Infantry Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Brownen, Second Lieutenant Patrick Tobin from the Battalion’s Operations Cell, and by Corporal Derek McNamara from the 1st Southern Brigade Engineer Group to the agencies present. The briefs were on the operations the Defence Forces have previously conducted in response to recent extreme weather such as the flooding in Donegal in August and during Storm Ophelia, in October. The briefs also explained how the Defence Forces can support local agencies in their response to situations such as flooding, ice, snow or heavy winds. This was followed by an outdoor demonstration of the equipment and vehicles available to the Defence Forces.

Return briefs on collaborative agency abilities were given by Mr Fergus Galvin, Director of Services Roads, Water and Environment and Gabriel Hoynes, Senior Roads Engineer both from Waterford Council. Inspector Murt Whelan, Waterford Gardai, Paul Nolan, Waterford Civil Defence Officer, Mr Brendan Groves Officer National Ambulance Service and Jim Griffin Irish Coastguard.

After the briefs, troops began a number of serials as part of the exercise to test their response to requests from the civilian agencies. These scenarios were based upon operations previously conducted by the unit including rescuing isolated members of the public, pumping water, deploying sandbags and movement of HSE personnel through impassable areas. The platoon worked into the night to respond to these simulated scenarios and create a plan on how the support to the agencies requesting would be delivered. The exercise concluded Thursday, with troops returning to Kilkenny Army Barracks.

A significant number of local military personnel, from across Waterford were participating in “Bi Ullamh”, including A/Sea John Collins, Privates Luke Whitmore, Jim Murray, Barry O’Gorman, Dean Whelan, Declan Faulkner and Corporals James Moriarty and John Whelan.

Upon conclusion of the briefings, Cllr Mulligan, on behalf of all councillors present, thanked all who assisted and worked collaboratively, to ensure everything ran smoothly for the two days. In return, Cllr Mulligan was acknowledged by “Bi Ullamh” exercise Commander, Colonel Mark Brownen, for assisting in the preparation and coordinating to ensure Waterford was best prepared to facilitate the Exercise.