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NSRI EMERGENCY
OPERATION CENTRE (EOC)

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Imagine being out swimming or paddling and finding yourself in danger, with no way of contacting anyone for help? This is the situation that the NSRI hopes to prevent with the SafeTRX app.

In February of this year, Rod Johnston tragically lost his life while surfski paddling in Camps Bay.

“Rod went out for a paddle in the afternoon,” Dean Wegerle, Events & Community Fundraising Manager for the NSRI, recalls. “Normally he would go for a quick half an hour out in the bay. That evening just before 7pm we were called out due to an overdue paddler and started the search exercise.”

The only reason anyone knew that the NSRI needed to be called was that Rod did not arrive for a dinner date with his girlfriend.

“We searched until midnight, and resumed again at dawn,” Dean says. “He was eventually found what must have been about 4.5 nautical miles out to sea, still tethered to his surf ski. Unfortunately he had passed away. There were a lot of assumptions, but we think he fell off his surf ski and wasn’t able to get back on. That’s the important thing about SafeTRX, there’s always someone watching. If he had SafeTRX and had pressed the emergency call button, we would have been able to assist him as soon as he got into difficulty.”

SafeTRX is an easy-to-use, free tracking app that is compatible with both Android and iPhone devices. When activated, it reads the phone’s onboard GPS and sends regular position updates to a central computer accessible by sea rescue authorities like the NSRI.

Rod’s family believe that his death could have been avoided had he been tracked with SafeTRX. They raised an incredible R106 000 for the NSRI after his passing, which has been put towards the organisation’s “Be Safe and Found” SafeTRX campaign.

“If you go swimming, paddling, surfing, fishing – whatever you do – you put information about your activity into the app,” Dean explains. “You say ‘I’m starting here, at this time, and I’m planning to get back at this time. This is the colour of my boat, this is my emergency contact’, and so on.”

“You can also activate a live tracking mode. From there, there’s a little button that you push while you’re being tracked that raises an alarm in our control room in the event of an emergency. We can then immediately get people out to you. If you’re overdue, we are also notified. We’ll contact you and if we can’t get hold of you, we will call your emergency contact. So instead of someone contacting us and saying someone is overdue, we’re the ones contacting you to find out where you are.”

In addition to these features, the SafeTRX app also allows the NSRI to know who might be near to a person in difficulty.

“On the app, there’s a box that you can tick that says you are willing to assist in an emergency,” Dean says. “So when there’s someone in difficulty or overdue, we can see who is in the area and ask them to assist. So at least we know who is on the water.”

To download the free SafeTRX app:

Click here to visit the Apple App Store

Click here to visit the Google Play Store

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