A glowing review of IPA Ireland’s Mass Casualty Seminar

08 Dec 2019


In October I went to Dublin for a seminar on First Response to a Mass Casualty Incident, organised by the Irish branch of the International Police Association. It looked at how operations and challenges involved with them, and ways to enhance our response.ieseminar2

On arrival, I was picked up by Chris Cahill, the event organiser, and taken to the IPA House in North Dublin. Once there, I got talking to the other international delegates over a beer or three. As often happens in Ireland, walking back from the bar after dinner, we accidentally ended up in another bar until 1am.

After a slightly hungover breakfast, the next morning we were taken to the training facility near Phoenix Park, operated by Civil Defence Ireland with an extensive urban training facility.

The first topic was delivered by a guest speaker, Chris from the BTP Firearms unit, who spoke about Counterterrorism operations in the UK.  Following on, the Garda Special Tactics Operations Command (STOC) gave a talk on their armed capability. Every detective in the Garda has a sidearm, regardless of role.

Within the past few years they have rolled out additional armed capability within Dublin, bridging the gap between the unarmed/sidearm officers and their CT-SFO’s.There is a lot of experience and skill in the unit, and they are hungry for learning. Their ‘routine’ jobs dealing with dissident terrorism & violence was anything but in my eyes.

The last input of the day was from a lead national negotiator, talking through how they respond to armed sieges, kidnappings and other high-risk situations.

Day 2 opened with a talk on public order incidents. It’s a bread & butter thing in the UK, and it was interesting to see how Garda learning had progressed. I had gone into the course expecting a heavy CT focus, but it was good to focus on how mass casualty events can occur elsewhere. This led onto the continuing medical response to such incidents, with METHANE & JESIP being introduced across Ireland.

The Armed Support Unit visited briefly to show off their capabilities, and after lunch we had a visit from the Garda air support unit. One of the guest speakers was a Sgt. on the unit, who arranged for the helicopter to land at the training venue for a talk about its use. Very cool.

Following on from this, the Special Detective Unit spoke about their role in CT operations. We learnt about the terrorism threat level in Ireland and the actions they conduct for it. A massive eye opener again and some real insight into the threats we face in GB.

ieseminar3The next day started with a trip to the Dublin Metropolitan Region Communications Centre, then onto the Dublin Regional HQ, to meet assistant commissioner Leahy for an overview on strategic response to mass casualty events. From a front-line supervisor’s point of view, it was also interesting to see the type of things that would be going on at the top end, and how my role would fit into the big picture. After this, we went to Kevin St. Station, where they had a great IPA collection in the main foyer.

We also had a talk from a retired PSNI officer about his PTSD experience. I took away a few key points regarding how trigger events can crop up at unexpected times, and how it is important to take time to process one’s experiences.

Later in the afternoon we had a tour of the Teeling Whiskey distillery with a couple of samples to wash down. Lastly was a visit to the Garda Memorial Gardens at Dublin Castle. Several of the Garda had friends, family or acquaintances listed on the memorial, and there were many stories of incredible heroism.

Day 4 began with a talk from one of the Garda officers regarding epileptic seizures, and how they could be misinterpreted as aggressive actions. Everyone in the room learnt something from it, and I have started showing the presentation to my own team back in London.

Following on, the Garda Emergency Response Unit visited to talk about their integration of medics onto units. Working in partnership with the Irish Ambulance Services, they have integrated highly trained medics for high risk operations. They talked us through some initial life-saving interventions to major trauma and haemorrhage control, with some practical exercises.

Civil Defence Ireland broke out their drones to demonstrate their search and rescue capabilities. The challenges, and benefits, of these drones were discussed – there is a real wealth of knowledge in their operations in policing environments.  Lastly, what would a visit to Dublin be without a tour of the Guinness brewery!

Alas the week came to a close all too quickly. We began the final day with a trip to Garda HQ in dress uniforms for pictures and a meeting with Assistant Commissioner McPartlin.

A few confused faces from people at HQ to see the wide range of uniforms knocking about…

The course was fantastic - I learnt a huge amount that goes straight back into my day job. I have huge respect for my Garda colleagues, the situations they deal with day to day rivals anything we get in London.

Chris Duncombe, member IPA UK