A County Wicklow firefighter’s unique approach to solving an issue with face masks for healthcare workers has been hailed as an example of how local authorities embraced the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.
Jason Keogh’s innovation and those of countless colleagues in Wicklow County Council, during the lockdown will be highlighted on #YourCouncilDay which takes place on Wednesday July 1st.
#YourCouncilDay will showcase what is happening on the day throughout Wicklow County Council and also highlight the innovation shown by local authorities in supporting the community through the Lockdown.
Based in Carnew Fire Station, Jason learned from a social media post that a 3D printer could be used to make a simple plastic device that relieved the pressure on the ears of people wearing protective masks.
“I heard of people in hospitals whose ears were bleeding after a day wearing the surgical masks,” said Jason, “In the fire service we wear them going out to the calls, and we are happy to take them off after only two or three hours. I can’t imagine what it would be like after a 12-hour shift.”
He explained: “The piece I make sits at the back of the neck and the loops of the mask go over it, relieving the pressure on the skin. I had a 3D printer and had never really done anything with it, so I made a few for some friends, and then somebody put it up on Facebook and the next minute I was swamped!”
Jason has now made around 4,000 and is still going. Demand was so great that he had to buy another 3D printer because the first one could only make five at a time.
“I gave 120 to Wicklow Fire Service, to cover every station, and I sent some to Wexford General Hospital, Tallaght Hospital and University Hospital Waterford,” he said.
Each piece costs only a few cents to make and Jason has not charged for them. However, some friends have made donations to allow him to buy filament which is the raw material used by 3D printers.
Jason, who has been with the fire service for three years, has also begun making face shields in response to requests from hairdressers returning to work.
“The current crisis has highlighted the true nature of public service in communities across the country – exemplified by the responses of Jason and his colleagues,” said the Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Pat Kennedy adding: “The unique circumstances of COVID-19 prompted Councils to innovate in how they provided both day-to-day services and additional supports to the public.
Faced with the challenge of social distancing, and with many of their own staff working from home, local authorities brought novel solutions to the complex problems posed by the new realities of Lockdown.
Thousands of public servants adopted new skills and devised innovative ways of delivering services to those who needed them most. All local authorities established Community Support Programmes to co-ordinate a multi-agency response to deliver services while Covid-19 restrictions are in force.
“Councils, including Wicklow, moved to support those faced with isolation, activating befriending services with regular phone calls, starting local radio shows and organising book and even musical instrument deliveries to combat loneliness,” said Cllr Kennedy.
He added: “Vital services moved online bringing a range of virtual supports into people’s homes such as inclusive exercise classes for all ages and adapted exercises for older people in self-isolation. We have seen live-streamed storytelling, virtual Zoom book clubs and online choirs supporting community spirits through dark days.”
Mr Frank Curran, Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council, commented: “This is just one sample of the innovation happening across the local authority in Wicklow during this current crisis. I want to commend Jason and all his colleagues for their unique contribution to the community.”
Social media users throughout the community are also asked to post their experiences of Council initiatives using the hashtag #YourCouncilDay.