Emergency phone installed at Hot Water Beach

Friday, 19 July 2013

Hot Water Beach Emergency Callout Squad members
(L to R): Peter Curry, Logan Carter and Stacey Semmens, alongside the new emergency phone at Hot Water Beach.

The first of what is hoped to be many emergency phones at beaches across the country was installed at Hot Water Beach last month as part of an innovative new approach to reducing drowning and injury at the iconic Coromandel beach.

The phone is set up like an intercom system; if the button is pressed, the phone will dial the SurfCom and Coastguard Northern Region Operations Centre in the Auckland Marine Rescue Centre, to be answered by Surf Life Saving and Coastguard personnel, who staff the centre at all times.

In an emergency, the Hot Water Beach Emergency Callout Squad will be activated through SMS and pagers. Police will also be engaged and will coordinate search and rescue operations.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand Aquatic Risk Manager Nick Mulcahy says the intention of the phone is to reduce the time between an after-hours incident occurring and surf lifeguards (and/or other agencies) being notified. "As such, it will enable efficient activation and hopefully assist in time critical incidents and save lives," he says.

The phone is currently being trialled, and if successful, this system may be recommended for aquatic environments throughout New Zealand including beaches, lakes and rivers.

Hot Water Beach Lifeguard Service Chairman and Surf Life Saving New Zealand Lifeguard of the Year Gary Hinds says there has been a drive by members of the club to encourage local residents and surfers to gain their Surf Lifeguard Award and become part of the callout squad, therefore further increasing their capacity. "It is hoped this will enable a more rapid response in the event of an emergency callout and reduce the risk of residents or inexperienced tourists risking their lives to save others," he says.

This project has been made possible through the support of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), Thames-Coromandel District Council, Aspect Solutions Limited, Surf Life Saving Northern Region, Coastguard Northern Region and Hot Water Beach Lifeguard Service.

Mr Mulcahy says he is very grateful to all partners of this project as without their support it would not have been possible. "We are particularly grateful to Aspect Solutions Limited who provided the emergency phone to us and installed the unit, all free of charge," he says.

Aspect Solutions Limited Sales and Accounts Manager Tim McMahon says the company saw real value in working with Surf Life Saving New Zealand to help protect people in the water at one of New Zealand's most popular and iconic destinations. "If the emergency phone can help reduce the emergency response time and help save even one life, it will be a great success," he says.

Aspect Solutions Limited is well placed to install the state of the art hardware, with their tried and proven emergency phones in place along many New Zealand motorways, as well as in some Auckland regional parks.

If you see someone in trouble at Hot Water Beach and surf lifeguards are on patrol, notify them immediately - they are trained in surf rescue and first aid. If there are no surf lifeguards on duty, either dial 111 and ask for police, or use the emergency phone if it is within close proximity; it is situated on the toilet block in the main sealed car park at the southern end of the beach.

If you are not a strong surf swimmer with experience in water rescue, do not attempt to rescue a person in difficulty.

The emergency phone, which was installed at Hot Water Beach, is the first to be dedicated specifically to streamlining water-based emergency response. If you would like to discuss the operation of the emergency phone please contact Nick Mulcahy, Aquatic Risk Manager, Surf Life Saving New Zealand on 04 382 7226 or email