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New technology a lifesaver for swimmers in distress

Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) will significantly boost surf safety on the Sunshine Coast this Easter with the rollout of two mobile emergency response beacons and coastal cameras at high-risk blackspots.

They will be deployed ahead of the Easter long-weekend, with the cameras and beacons to be placed at unpatrolled stretches of coastline near Double Island Point, and between the Boardwalk and Yaroomba beaches.

The decision to roll out the Australian-first technology comes after SLSQ identified the stretches of coastline as particularly high-risk locations following numerous incidents in recent years.

The coastal cameras will allow surf lifesavers to monitor the locations remotely, while the beacon technology can be used around the clock to directly alert SLSQ if a beachgoer is in danger and requires immediate assistance.

SLSQ Sunshine Coast lifesaving coordinator Jacob Thomson said the technology would help save lives moving forward.

“We’d obviously love to have an active patrol service on every single beach across the Sunshine Coast, but that’s simply not possible or realistic,” he said.

“However, this technology will ensure that lifesavers can still monitor those high-risk areas and be in a position to respond immediately to any incidents unfolding.”

The mobile technology is the first of its kind in Australia and has been developed by SLSQ and CoastalComs. The Sunshine Coast is the first region in Queensland to be using the technology, with the potential for it to be rolled out statewide.

Mr Thomson said the technology would be integrated into the region’s existing lifesaving services to increase protection along the coastline and help SLSQ work towards its goal of eliminating drowning deaths.

“The cameras provide us with a live feed of the area that will be monitored by our state operations centre, and will allow us to be a lot more proactive in terms of deploying assets or resources,” he said.

“Meanwhile if someone spots a beachgoer in trouble or immediate danger, they can activate a button on the emergency response beacon which will put them in direct contact with our state operations center who can then task lifesaving assets accordingly.

“The beacon can be activated around the clock on a 24/7 basis and, if a call comes through outside of our regular patrol hours, it will go through to one of our emergency response groups who will be in a position to respond quickly to any incidents,” he said.

While the technology will add an additional safety measure to the high-risk locations, Mr Thomson said it didn’t take away from the need to swim between the flags.

“This Easter we’re really encouraging everyone to put safety first at all times and swim only at patrolled beaches and during patrol times,” he said.

“There’s no doubt the safest place to swim is still between the red and yellow flags, which are patrolled by qualified surf lifesavers and lifeguards.”

Last Easter holidays (14-17 April 2017) surf lifesavers and lifeguards on the Sunshine Coast watched over 329,350 beachgoers and directly saved 68 lives through in-water rescues.

Meanwhile, they also performed 5,869 preventative actions to proactively safeguard beachgoers, and also treated 184 first aid patients for minor injuries and marine stings.  

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