The New South Wales Government has announced plans to install ten new Emergency Response Beacons (ERBs) along its coast over the course of 2024, in response to an increase in coastal drownings over the past few years. 

The expansion of emergency response infrastructure comes after the Minister for Emergency Services, Jihad Dib, convened a roundtable on coastal safety earlier in March.

The ERBs, supplied by specialist equipment provider Spectur, directly connect callers to Surf Life Saving NSW’s State Operations Centre, enabling the rapid deployment of lifesaving and emergency services to a potential rescue site. This can drastically reduce response times, particularly in unpatrolled or isolated areas.

At least ten new ERB units are planned to be installed at the following locations in 2024, subject to council or land manager approvals:

  • Mid North Coast: Scotts Head
  • Central Coast: Spoon Bay, Fraser Park, Forresters Beach
  • Hunter: Moonee Beach
  • Northern Beaches: Turrimetta, North Palm Beach
  • Illawarra: Austinmer, Woonoona, Bulli

The new beacons, which are the first of 32 to be delivered over the next four years, are part of the NSW Government’s record $23 million additional investment in Surf Life Saving NSW.

As part of this funding, the State Government is also delivering 67 jet skis over four years, with 14 already delivered to beaches along the state’s coastline. Jet skis are highly manoeuvrable and can easily be deployed to perform rescues.

The roundtable held in early March considered the latest data on high risk drowning locations along the state’s coastline, with the locations of the new ERBs based on this data, rescue statistics and consultation with key stakeholders.

The New South Wales Government said that addressing the number of coastal deaths in unpatrolled and isolated locations is a priority, along with reaching more communities with important water safety messages. Discussions at the roundtable highlighted concerns about whether these messages are well understood by all beachgoers.

New South Wales Minister for Emergency Services, Jihad Dib, said that ERBs are already being used successfully in coastal locations, including at Forster this summer when a beacon was instrumental in supporting the rescue of individuals caught in a rip current.

“The evidence is clear – this technology works, and we know it will make a key contribution to preventing drownings on our coastline,” Mr Dib said. 

“The beacons use technology that overcomes connectivity limitations, or ‘black spots’, in remote areas, providing a reliable option in an emergency.

“A day at the beach shouldn’t turn into a disaster, and this is one of several measures the New South Wales Government is taking to help ensure more people get home safely.”

Chief Executive of Surf Life Saving NSW, Steve Pearce, said that there are currently 32 ERBs positioned along the coast, and they are proving their worth in allowing the public to immediately alert responders to incidents and emergencies.

“We are looking at enhancements to the next generation of ERBs which could include having public rescue equipment attached to the units that people could use to keep themselves safe if they attempt a rescue.

“It’s all about using technology to improve how we respond to coastal incidents and, in the end, save more lives along the coast.”

Spectur Managing Director Dr Gerard Dyson said “Spectur is pleased to be a long term partner of SLS NSW and part of making our communities safer, smarter and more sustainable.

“We have seen countless situations where these Emergency Response Beacons have been connecting life savers to critical situations that are not ‘between the flags’, saving lives.

“We look forward to continuing to roll out these solutions around the country and are working closely with our partners to expand the ways that technology can complement and extend the human life saving resources that our communities have.”

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