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Beaches attract a lot of people, especially during the summer season and holiday seasons. However, because of the size of many beaches, and risks associated with these beaches, including RIP currents it is important to have layers of safety in addition to lifeguards.

This is according to Andrew Ingram, Drowning Prevention Manager at the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) who states that part of our mandate as the Drowning Prevention department at the NSRI is to look at innovative ways we could save the lives of South African water users. “Earlier this year, one of the beach cameras at Strand Beach helped to save a life of a young boy, Matthew,10, who was spotted by our Drowning Prevention camera operator. He was pulled away from the beach by a rip current and was struggling to stay afloat. Our camera operator spotted him, and we immediately alerted the local lifeguards to the emergency”, Ingram says.

The family of the young boy will forever be grateful to the eyes behind the camera monitor who was able to spot the child in trouble. Lezhae Snyders, camera operator at the NSRI’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) describes this day as any ordinary day in the EOC. “This all changed whilst I was doing my regular monitoring and I saw that someone was in trouble zoomed in to confirm. I quickly alerted the lifeguards who had not yet started their day shift,” explains Snyders.

To date, the NSRI beach cameras are strategically placed at beaches that have dangerous RIP currents. They are in the following areas in the Western Cape, Strand Beach, Blouberg Beach, Herolds Bay (Garden Route area), and Buffels Bay. “The aim is to expand this project into other areas, and we are aiming to install more cameras in the Western Cape and KZN by end of this year,” adds Andrew.

In some areas, the NSRI needs volunteers to man these cameras, especially since our rescue volunteers have a lot on their plates. So having volunteers who can assist by monitoring a Beach Safety Camera from the safety of their living room and alert us to any dangers, enables us to save more lives. “We will provide training to these volunteers on how to operate the cameras and our Emergency Operations Center is always ready to jump in and help should a volunteer need some guidance. In Herolds Bay, we have a pool of volunteers that work closely with the first responders in that area,” concludes Ingram.

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