Skip to main content

One of the state’s newest Emergency Response Beacons (ERBs) has been used twice in a few days to assist in the rescue of people at The Ruins campground south of Forster this week.

Tim Negus from Narrabeen in Sydney has been holidaying at the Booti Booti National Park location for almost 30 years and says he has witnessed many close calls and a drowning some years ago at the unpatrolled beach.

On Tuesday 2 January, Tim was heading down the beach track from the campground to have a swim when a woman ran up to him, frantic and yelling at him to “push the button!” on the Emergency Response Beacon and that her husband was trying to rescue two people caught in a rip current.

He ran to the bright yellow beacon on the pole at the back of the beach, pushed the call button and was instantly answered by an operator in the SLSNSW State Operations Centre.

Lifeguards from nearby Elizabeth Beach responded by jetski and road as the man was returning the swimmers to shore on his body board. Volunteer Duty Officers and other emergency services also responded.

Tim and his campmates had noted the beacon was there earlier that day.

“We literally said ‘that’s good they’ve put that in’, we didn’t know if was like a shark warning system or what it was. Half an hour later I went down for a swim by myself and got to have a go of it, I guess,” he said.

“The lady came running up the beach saying two people had gone under and I just called with the beacon and handed over to her to talk to the operator. I ran down and her husband had jumped in and managed to get the two people out with his body board. There were two bad rips and they’d come off the sandbar I guess.

“I think if he wasn’t there with the board it would have been a bit different. There are a lot of tourists who go there who don’t understand the risks,” said Tim.

The ERB was again activated on 4 January to another person caught in a rip current at the same location. A bystander was able to help the person back to shore.

The beach has been a notorious spot for rescues and incidents over the years and the installation of the ERB in July 2023, part of a larger network of 32 throughout the state, was to reduce response times in emergencies. The location has limited mobile phone reception.

The ERBs directly connect a caller to the State Operations Centre so the nearest lifesaving or emergency service can be tasked to respond. The State Duty Officer notifies Police or other services.

“I guess you’d just ring Triple Zero normally, but then you’ve gotta describe where you are and I don’t think I would have had my phone on me just going down for a swim.

“I just pressed the button and there was someone there straight away. Good system, it’s nice and clear and there was an instant response. It was a good outcome, lucky other people were on the beach.

There are another 35 ERBs to be installed through the state over the next four years, with 10 units scheduled for commissioning before July 2024. Final locations are yet to be determined.

Friday 5 January 2024