Scottish Water worker bolsters resilience of island communities

07 May 2020
Willie Clark

Dual roles

In addition to his day job, Willie Clark also volunteers with the Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team.

A Scottish Water employee is part of a key effort to ensure the resilience of an island community in the event of the spread of coronavirus. 
 
Willie Clark, a senior operative in waste water networks and treatment based in Stornoway on Lewis, is also a volunteer with Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team which could play a key role in the response to an increase of cases of the virus in Lewis and Harris. 
 
Willie, who has worked in the water industry for 14 years, started volunteering with the coastguard in 2015 and is part of a team which is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help with search and rescue incidents, as well as providing assistance to the police in missing person cases. 
 
In recent weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic has spread to all corners of the UK, their role has expanded further to include training for how to drive an ambulance as well as load patients safely on to Puma helicopters if the need arises to transfer patients to the mainland. 
 
The team also now assist the police in carrying out patrols of beaches in the area to ensure social distancing measures are being observed. 
 
Willie said: “It can feel like a lot of responsibility if the number of cases on the islands did suddenly start to go up but we’ve got a great team around us. It is all about team work, particularly in the islands where we all have to take on multiple roles sometimes to ensure that there is that resilience in place in case a number of us are potentially affected by coronavirus. 
 
“The team is very important to me and they are a fantastic bunch. I love being part of the coastguard and get a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction out of it. I really think more people should volunteer - it is good for your well-being. 
 
“A really important part of being a volunteer is how flexible Scottish Water is in terms of allowing me to answer any call outs during the working day – while most call outs tend to be in the evenings or weekends, I wouldn’t be able to do it without Scottish Water’s support in case we do get those calls during the day.” 
 
He added: “The community has really come together to help each other while this has been going on. People are shopping for each other and local shops have set up drive throughs for people to get their shopping with minimal contact. The technology makes it a lot easier – if this was happening 20 years ago, I think it would be very hard on the island folk, not being able to stay in touch with people.” 
 
Murdo Macaulay, Coastal Operations Area Commander for Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber, said: “As one of the four blue light emergency services, HM Coastguard is assisting in the national response by providing mutual aid to our partner agencies and to local authorities.

"We could not do this without the fantastic people that volunteer to form the Coastguard Rescue Service and the flexibility and willingness of their employers to release them for duty so I would like to extend my thanks to them and their employers.”

Willie, whose partner Imelda Maher Graham works as a nurse at the Western Isles Hospital, added: 
 
“To be honest, apart from customer interaction, a lot of things have stayed the same in terms of what is involved in my job, it’s just how quiet the islands have got.  
 
“We have a team of six but we don’t see each other in person just now, we have meetings over skype. We're all taking separate vans and just making sure that we call customers before going out to see them so that they know to observe social distancing. I really think my partner deserves the recognition for what she is doing at the moment.”