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Visitors to NSW beaches will have real-time safety information at their fingertips with the rollout of a trial of free Beach WiFi technology this summer.

The NSW Government has provided funding for Surf Life Saving to trial ways to enhance the safety of the public on our beaches and reduce the rate of coastal drownings each year in NSW.

“By funding this initiative, we are giving our volunteer lifesavers the tools they need to keep people safe on the beach this summer,” said the Minister for Emergency Services, David Elliott.

Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales has no doubt the technology has the potential to save lives. “The WiFi trial will give beachgoers, including people from non-English speaking backgrounds, access to vital safety information when and where they need it most.”

The technology is initially being trialed at four locations in NSW: Byron Bay, Bronte, Nth Cronulla and Nth Wollongong. Similar trials are underway on Queensland beaches.

The WiFi signal is targeted within an area of around 100 metres, which is designed to attract people to the safer area of the beach, between the red and yellow flags. The WiFi units will be positioned on the beach by lifesavers or at some locations on weekdays by lifeguards. Prominent signage will tell beachgoers that WiFi is available and how to login.

Once connected, the home screen features easy to understand safety tips and links to more information on beach safety such as how to spot a rip current. Users can select this information to be displayed in five languages other than English, including Chinese, Arabic and Hindi.

The technology also allows Patrol Captains or lifeguards to push real-time safety alerts to beachgoers about current hazards, including bluebottles, sharks, rips or beach closures due to dangerous surf conditions. These are pre-translated into other languages.

With too many coastal drownings occuring outside patrol areas, Surf Life Saving NSW hopes the technology will encourage more people to swim between the flags.

“For us, the benefits are two-fold; it’s a great way to encourage swimmers to stay between the flags, but it’s also a platform to provide live information on conditions and safety tips, particularly to international tourists in their own language,” said George Shales.

On average over the last 10 years, around 27% of drowning deaths in Australia were people born overseas. International students who are drowning are mostly from India (29.4%) and China (26.5%).

“We thank the NSW Government for its support for this new technology which we hope will play a key role in protecting both international and domestic beachgoers this summer,” said George Shales.


Friday 24 January 2020