Baywatch-style unit keeps city's waters safe
WHEN everybody goes to the beach, the river or the city's dams for a swim, an elite volunteer group of rescuers in Nelson Mandela Bay gear up to keep the city's water safe.
And even though they have no Pamela Anderson look-a-like on their team yet, the Baywatch-style unit has saved many lives in the past festive season.
The Eastern Cape Coastal Water Rescue unit, previously known as Surf Rescue, was formed 33 years ago and recently underwent a name change after including other water related emergencies into their response mandate.
They operate with 20 volunteers who are rescue swimmers, medical personnel and land support members - all on 24-hour standby. To date the team has assisted in more than 40 water-related rescues since the beginning of last year.
Coastal Water Rescue coordinator John Fletcher said that voluntary organisation reacted to all water-related rescues, including dams, rivers, swimming pools and the surf.
The Coastal Water Rescue team works closely with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) on occasion as well as with the police during sea emergencies.
NSRI responds to all sea-related drownings, while Coastal Water Rescue respond to drownings within surf and about 200m from shoreline.
Fletcher said that the unit operated in agreement with the police emergency control centre and were on standby to respond to any water emergency within the metro.
Since January the team has responded to six water-related emergencies in the Nelson Mandela Bay area. The team offers this emergency response over 110km of coast line between the Sundays and Gamtoos rivers.
"Our team is divided into sectors to ensure maximum response and has assisted with 12 rescues since December," Fletcher said.
The rescue team pays for all its own equipment and running costs as well as medical supplies used during operations.
"We are currently putting proposals together in the hope of getting more life saving equipment so that we can increase manpower."
The team's peak rescue seasons are during the holidays. This often means that members have to sacrifice family time to respond to rescues. The unit also actively patrols the beachfront area assessing high risk swimming areas according to the weather and currents.
- Anyone who needs to get hold of the Coastal Water Rescue for an emergency can contact 10111 emergency control room.