October 10 - 16, 2021: Issue 513


A Beacon of Safety for Manly's Shelly Beach: New ERB unveiled

Visitors to one of the city’s most iconic coastal locations, Shelly Beach, will be able to swim a little safer with new lifesaving technology installed for use in emergencies, unveiled Saturday October 9 by the NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott.

The Emergency Response Beacon (ERB) now in place at the popular swim and dive location is one of 20 new generation units which will be rolled out at key drowning hotspots this year, as part of the NSW Government’s $16 million commitment across four years to Surf Life Saving NSW.

The devices are being installed at identified high risk locations which are unpatrolled by lifesavers or lifeguards. In an emergency, with the press of a button, a member of the public can be connected to the Surf Life Saving State Operations Centre (SOC) for immediate assistance.

President of Surf Life Saving NSW, George Shales said the organisation is always looking for new ways to keep NSW beachgoers safer through enhanced technology. 

“The ERB will give visitors at unpatrolled beaches a link to lifesaving services during emergencies, where every second can mean the difference between life and death,” said Mr Shales.  

The ERB uses the latest mobile technology to communicate between the SOC and the person on the beach and the SOC operator can quickly gather important information, issue instructions or provide reassurance in an emergency situation.

A camera fitted to the ERB can be remotely monitored by the SOC to provide operators with situational awareness of the incident. Surf Life Saving can then respond using a wide range of Support Operations assets, including jetskis, inflatable rescue boats, volunteer callout teams from surf clubs, lifeguards, or helicopter or drone services. 

The upgrade in technology provided by the NSW Government’s enhanced rescue funding means the new units are solar-powered, can be permanently fixed in position and are easy to install in remote or difficult to access locations. Flashing lights on top of the beacon act as a visual indicator to lifesavers or members of the public that the unit has been activated. 

“It is technology like this that I am proud we are rolling out, to ensure beach users across NSW are as safe as possible. This beacon will give Manly locals some extra peace of mind that help is available if they get into trouble,” said Mr Shales.

Shelly Beach was identified as a hotspot location for the new beacon after lifesavers responded to 49 major emergency callouts since 2008 and three coastal deaths or drowning of swimmers, snorkelers and divers in the last six years. The latest tragedy occurred in August, when a local dive instructor was retrieved from the water and CPR efforts were unsuccessful. 

“Unfortunately we can’t be everywhere at once, so these emergency beacons are about expanding our reach and making every effort to protect swimmers at more remote locations,” Mr Shales said.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott joined Steven Pearce, CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW, and lifesavers on Saturday to raise the red and yellow flags and inspect one of the 20 new Emergency Rescue Beacons (ERBs) rolled out along the State’s coastline. 

Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW) will be utilising a range of new technology including drones (UAVs) and the new ERBs this summer to ensure all beachgoers are safe in the water as well as on the sand. This is part of the NSW Government’s record $16 million investment in SLSNSW over four years. 

“While our State’s surf lifesavers begun patrolling on 18 September, in the midst of the most recent lockdown period, it is only this week that the rest of NSW can make a long-awaited return to our beaches,” Mr Elliott said. 

“This year 20 new ERBs have been rolled out at unpatrolled locations, to provide an added layer of protection for anyone enjoying NSW beaches, directly connecting people to the SLSNSW State Operations Centre in the case of an emergency.” 

Mr Pearce said with the stay-at-home travel restrictions being lifted this week, they are expecting large crowds at the beaches. As summer approaches more than 20,000 surf lifesavers are getting ready to welcome beachgoers and keep them safe by patrolling the State’s shores in the iconic red and yellow.  

“With 129 patrolled locations there is plenty of beautiful coastline for everyone to re-discover and enjoy,” Mr Pearce said. 

“Please don’t take unnecessary risks that could put your life and those you love in danger as well as put unnecessary strain on our volunteers. We are prepared but we need the cooperation of everyone to keep our beaches safe for everyone to enjoy.” 

The Surf Lifesaving Patrol season runs until Sunday 25 April 2021. For the latest updates on COVID-19 beach safety advice, visit the Surf Life Saving website.

Report and photos by Surf Life Saving NSW