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Locals and holiday makers at a popular but hazardous coastal location at Port Stephens will be able to swim a little safer with new lifesaving technology installed for use in emergencies, launched on Thursday 13 July by the Member for Port Stephens, the Hon Kate Washington.

With funding support from the NSW Government, new Emergency Response Beacons (ERBs) are now in operation at various locations on the Central Coast and two units are in place at Fingal Beach and Fingal Spit.

“Our lifesavers and lifeguards can’t be everywhere at once, so these emergency beacons are about expanding the reach and making every effort to protect swimmers at unpatrolled locations so we can make sure only great memories are made when visiting our beaches,” said Ms Washington.

ERBs 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 emergency service.They’re solar powered and connect to the 4G network so there is no cabling involved in installation.

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 ERBs give visitors at unpatrolled beaches a link to lifesaving services during emergencies, where every second can mean the difference between life and death,” said Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce.

“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 which will help to reduce the response time for emergencies along the NSW coast. The Fingal installations come after several major incidents in the region over the past few months, including the drowning of a man at Fingal Spit in April.

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 that the new units will be a lighter touch on the coastal environment.

“It is technology like this that we are proud to see rolling out, to ensure beach users across NSW are as safe as possible. This beacon will give residents and visitors some extra peace of mind that help is available if they get into trouble,” said Steve Pearce.

Thursday 13 July 2023