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NSRI EMERGENCY
OPERATION CENTRE (EOC)

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The southernmost coastal village and holiday resort in South Africa is also home to what might just be the NSRI’s most enthusiastic station.

STN 30

Station 30 sits at the epicentre of rescue services for the entire region. Why? Because station commander Reinard Geldenhuys is also the emergency services manager for the entire Overberg District Municipality.

“Roundabout 1995, I joined the NSRI – being the disaster manager and fire chief at the time, it was a logical step.”

Indeed, Reinard has been in rescue work for over three decades, volunteering with the NSRI on-and-off, and has seen the station evolve in that time. Since 2008, the station has grown from strength to strength under his leadership.

“I've always loved the sea,” says Reinard. “I used to spend a lot of time in the sea paddle skiing, and I am still a diver. But being on a boat… I often say the Lord above has a strange sense of humour: he gave me this absolute love for the sea, but he also gave me seasickness! [Laughs.] I think He laughs every time.”

What started as a satellite station for the NSRI’s Hermanus base back in the ‘90s, is now a fully-fledged station with 20 active crew. “We have a vibrant, diverse crew at the moment: from young to older, male, female… One of my biggest challenges as station commander is to curb the enthusiasm of my crew!”

This ‘challenge’ is also one of Reinard’s greatest joys: “I can have a hard day at work, and really be struggling, and then I go to a training session and I am surrounded by these passionate people… It’s just so rewarding. Being out on the boat sometimes, surrounded by competent crew – there's a sense of enjoyment coupled with total purpose. There’s nothing better.”

Reinard is proud of his station’s training standards, which have improved steadily over the years, now regularly turning out fully trained coxswains. Station 30 crew trains every Saturday, with meetings every second Wednesday. Unlike other stations’ training rotas, which break the crew up into training shifts, the entire crew trains together, every time.

Liza Struwig, who has been with the station since September 2021, recently qualified as the station’s first female Class 4 Coxswain in April 2023.

“I joined Station 30 with the idea of becoming part of the shore-based crew, which quickly changed the moment I set foot on the vessels,” says Liza. “The crew and volunteers at the station quickly became like family, and I felt at home from day one.

“Qualifying as a Class 4 is a tremendous honour, and the responsibility is something I do not take lightly. The NSRI has taught me skills and given me the platform to live out my love for helping others in need. We all push each other to grow and keep the standards high as a station. The best decision I ever made was joining the NSRI, and I would not trade it for anything in the world.”

liza

An average month for the Station 30 crew involves medevacs and assisting boats or fishermen in difficulty, supporting the lifeguards on duty, as well as the odd inland callout to support other rescue efforts in collaboration with the Overberg District Municipality.

Of course, Reinard played a central role in coordinating the rescue efforts during the devastating floods in September, which saw various NSRI crews – including Station 30 – attending to emergency evacuations in the region.

“Myself, Nico Markram, Shaun Nortje, Chris Pannell and Pieter Rossouw – based at the Fire Station – responded on Monday 24 September to assist the Bredasdorp Fire Station with evacuations in the Greyton, Helderstroom and Nachtwacht over several days,” says Liza. “We assisted families in getting them off their flooded farms, cutting enclosures for farm animals to free themselves, and getting workers to higher ground. It was an eye-opening experience to what nature can throw at you in an instant. We are grateful for being safe, and completing all rescues without any loss of life.”

flood

Reinard is satisfied with his station’s capacity and sees no major areas for improvement other than succession planning. “I'm lucky to have a deputy station commander – Jaco Louw – who's active and passionate and wants to be out there. He’ll take over from me one of these days.”

While the Agulhas base has received its fair share of NSRI excellence awards, what Reinard counts as the station’s greatest success is that they have never had to turn down a call. He takes obvious pride in his crew’s passion for rescue work and thirst for knowledge. “You know, I was sitting in the last training session, and Jaco – also our training officer – was asking the crew questions, testing their knowledge. I had to focus to not let my jaw drop – their theoretical knowledge was incredible. For me, that's the achievement.”

STN 30


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