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New beacons to keep swimmers safe at ‘hazardous’ Fingal

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It’s been the scene of numerous fatalities in the past decade, however new technology might make things safer for swimmers at Port Stephens.

The notorious Fingal Spit has claimed more than a dozen lives, including a 71-year-old man who was swept to his death in April, while countless rescue operations have occurred at Fingal Beach.

Authorities are now trying to minimise those terrible incidents by installing lifesaving equipment to protect locals and holidaymakers alike at the popular but hazardous location.

Emergency Response Beacons (ERBs) will be active at Fingal Bay and Fingal Beach after Port Stephens MP Kate Washington launched the initiative on Thursday 13 July.

They use the latest technology to connect someone witnessing a coastal emergency directly to the SLSNSW State Operations Centre (SOC) where the operator can alert the nearest lifesavers, lifeguards or other service.

The ERBs are solar-powered and connect to the 4G network, so there is no cabling involved in installation. 

“Our lifesavers and lifeguards can’t be everywhere at once,” Ms Washington said.

“So, these ERBs are about expanding the reach and making every effort to look after swimmers at unpatrolled locations.”

A camera fitted to the beacon may be remotely monitored by the SOC to provide operators with situational awareness of the incident.

Surf Life Saving NSW can then respond using a wide range of assets, including jetskis, inflatable rescue boats, volunteer callout teams from surf clubs, lifeguards, or helicopter or drone services.

“The ERBs give visitors at unpatrolled beaches a link to vital lifesaving resources during emergencies, where every second can mean the difference between life and death,” SLSNSW CEO Steve Pearce said.

“It’s going to really reduce response times and likely save many lives, whether it’s swimming, rock fishing or boating incidents.”

There are now 32 ERBs in high-risk or blackspot locations along the NSW coast.

A significant innovation in the latest installations is the use of a far less invasive ground footing, which allows the units to be removed easily in the case of instability due to erosion for example.

National Parks & Wildlife Service and local indigenous communities are pleased the new units will be a lighter touch on the coastal environment.

“It’s technology like this we are proud to see rolling out, to ensure beach users across NSW are as safe as possible,” Mr Pearce said.

“This beacon will give residents and visitors some extra peace of mind that help is available if they get into trouble.”

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