Local News

New operations centre for Surf Life Saving NSW ahead of official season

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Far South Coast surflife savers have welcomed the opening of a new state operations centre in Sydney yesterday.

The $550,000 centre is designed to provide greater coastal surveillance and better emergency communications and coordination.

A spokesperson says the centre was designed in consultation with other emergency services with the experience of the NSW bushfires also helping inform the design of the new centre.

 On any given weekend in summer, Surf Life Saving NSW’s State Operations Centre at the SLSNSW Headquarters at Belrose in Northern Sydney is a hive of activity, supporting beach patrols at 129 Surf Life Saving Clubs, managing emergency situations and search and rescue operations across the NSW coastline. The SOC also coordinates multi-agency responses with other NSW emergency service organisations including NSW Police and ambulance, 365 days’ a year.

Last year alone it managed 438 calls for an ambulance and responded to 602 requests for assistance to coastal incidents and emergencies from police.

In addition to providing greater coastal surveillance capability, faster response times and improved asset coordination, the new State Operations Centre will double as a back-up emergency management centre for the Northern Beaches Local Government Area and the North West Metropolitan Region.

The new State Operations Centre has been designed in consultation with other NSW emergency service organisations including the Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Service and builds upon learnings from the design of their emergency operations centres. Recent multi-agency emergency responses - including the response to the NSW bushfires in January - also helped inform the design of the new centre and how it can be used for maximum effectiveness for the protection of NSW communities. 

Steve Pearce, CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW, said that with more people anticipated to visit the NSW coastline this summer, the new State Operations Centre broadens Surf Life Saving NSW’s emergency response posture so it can more effectively respond to critical incidents and requests for assistance. 

“With near-record drownings last summer and a very significant increase in boating fatalities, it's vital that our lifesavers have the best communications and emergency coordination technology available to help save lives on the beach and on the water. 

“We saw an unprecedented increase in emergency callout operations and requests for assistance over winter and as the weather warms, the beaches are only going to get busier. 

“On busy weekends it is not unusual for the SOC to simultaneously coordinate over 300 Surf Life Saving assets including patrols at 129 beach locations, on-water rescue craft such as jetskis and jetboats, helicopters and more recently, our fleet of UAVs,” Steve Pearce said. 

President of Surf Life Saving NSW, George Shales OAM said that COVID-19 considerations means the new State Operations Centre will also play a pivotal role during the coming summer season in monitoring beach attendance and assisting Councils and authorities to coordinate beach closures if requested.  

“With many more people expected to head to the coast this summer, we want to send a strong message to all beachgoers to respect the advice and direction of surf lifesavers and lifeguards - particularly regarding beach safety but also regarding social distancing requirements,” said George Shales. 

“This season we are reminding beachgoers to swim between the red and yellow flags at patrolled locations but to also adhere to the health orders regarding social distancing,” he said. 

The Surf Life Saving summer patrol season officially begins on Saturday 26 September.