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On Sunday 15 September, a Surf Life Saving NSW Emergency Response Beacon at the beautiful but notorious Dreamtime Beach on the NSW Far North Coast was pivotal in getting help quickly to a badly injured surfer.

A 25 year-old man from Queensland’s Gold Coast, was surfing with friends when he suffered a large and deep laceration to his right leg. The ‘fin-chop’ injury was caused when the man landed heavily on his board and a fin sliced through his upper thigh.

The man said that his partner initially tried to call 000 (triple-zero) on her mobile phone to get help. However, due to poor mobile phone coverage, she was unable to get a connection. It was then that he remembered the Emergency Response Beacon (ERB) was nearby.

“I surf down at Dreamtime all the time and I remembered the emergency beacon. I remember when it was first installed last year.

“We didn’t have any mobile service and fin chops can be pretty bad, so I told my girlfriend we had to use the beacon to get good, clear service. I said it was there for a purpose so we should use it,” he said.

The man’s partner activated the beacon and was instantly connected with the Surf Life Saving NSW State Operations Centre (SOC) which immediately tasked Far North Coast Duty Officers and NSW Ambulance.

On-call volunteer Surf Life Saving Duty Officers were the first to arrive at Dreamtime Beach. Using a 4WD support vehicle, they quickly located the man on the beach and were able to provide first aid treatment to stop the bleeding. He was transported from the beach to a nearby carpark where paramedics were waiting to take him to hospital for further treatment.

The surfer said that it was enormously reassuring knowing that once the beacon had been activated, help was on its way. He said he was grateful to Surf Life Saving and local authorities for installing the beacon.

“It was peace of mind knowing the call had gone through. It was stress-free for me after that.

“I usually don’t take a mobile phone with me when I surf anyway. The fact that you can use the beacon to call for help is really useful,” he said.

Surf Life Saving Far North Coast Duty Officer Chris Samuels said that Dreamtime Beach is becoming increasingly popular with tourists but is an isolated, unpatrolled and often dangerous beach.

“Having an emergency beacon at that location is proving invaluable. It’s not even the summer season and we had over 200 people on the beach on Sunday. It’s a great piece of equipment.

“Thanks to the beacon, we were able to coordinate our response with Ambulance quickly and easily,” said Chris Samuels. 

The emergency response beacon was installed in November 2018. It’s the first of its kind in NSW and was installed with grant funding from the NSW Government and in consultation with the Tweed Shire Council and the Aboriginal Land Council.

Director of Lifesaving at Surf Life Saving NSW, Joel Wiseman said that since 2009 there had been at least six drowning deaths in the Dreamtime Beach area - including several high-profile incidents.

“The beacon provides direct voice communication with the Surf Life Saving State Operations Centre in Sydney and video camera capability which allows operators to view an incident.

“The aim of this lifesaving device is to streamline and shorten response times to coastal emergencies. All it requires is a touch of the button and the appropriate assets can be tasked to assist,” said Joel Wiseman.

Surf Life Saving NSW Duty Operations Officer Glenn Clarke said, “The ability to quickly speak to the man’s partner and ascertain his location and condition was important in coordinating our response and assistance. We were also able to use the video camera on the Dreamtime Beach beacon to monitor the situation and direct our first responders,” said Glenn Clarke

The ERB complements public rescue equipment that is already in place at Dreamtime Beach including Angel Rings and demonstrates the new and important role technology is providing to enhance surveillance along the NSW coastline.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce said that more ERBs would be rolled out at locations across the state in the coming months.

“The near record drowning toll last year has our surf lifesavers on high alert and we are looking to new technology, such as the emergency beacons, to assist us save lives this summer,” said SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce.

“Surf Life Saving NSW is working with local councils to install next generation permanent beacons at drowning hotspots and unpatrolled locations.

“We plan to install and activate three new beacons before the end of the year. We are committed to research and development to ensure this technology continues to serve the community.

“Our beacon technology is making history as the first of its type in NSW. It will continue to help lifesavers and emergency services respond to coastal incidents,” said Steven Pearce.

Since 1 July 2009, there have been six confirmed drownings at Dreamtime Beach.


Tuesday 17 September 2019