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Saving South Australia’s swimmers with network video technology

Organization: Surf Life Saving South Australia (SLSSA)
Location: Adelaide, Australia
Customer need: Public safety
Adelaide, Australia, 

Surf Life Saving South Australia (SLSSA) gets remote eyes on the water for greater public safety, further extending its resources with a new Axis camera network to save more lives.

Making the most of resources to save more lives

Surf Life Saving SA (SLSSA) is South Australia’s major coastal water safety, drowning prevention and rescue authority. A unique emergency service provider, Surf Life Saving SA provides patrols at 21 locations between October and April each year and responds to emergency activations for the rest of the year.

A not-for-profit emergency service, SLSSA operates 24/7 response teams that include individual members trained in search and rescue across all of its clubs, rescue water craft, jet rescue boats and drone services. It also operates the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service.

Encompassing every surf club in South Australia, a number of them in regional locations, SLSSA bears responsibility for safeguarding roughly 150 kilometres of coastline, coordinating and managing a range of functions across the state. 

Being tasked with keeping an eye on large stretches of waterways and coastlines, SLSSA has to use its resources as wisely and efficiently as possible to make the greatest possible impact on public safety it can with the people and tools it has at its disposal. 

In an effort to further drive the effectiveness of the resources supporting its mission of achieving zero preventable drownings in South Australia, SLSSA decided to establish a dispersed camera network that would provide its State Operations Centre at West Beach, Adelaide, with greater visibility of busy beaches and black spot areas. 

The visibility offered by such a camera network could provide the real-time data needed to allow SLSSA to play a more proactive role in identifying risks, threats and incidents, and mobilise patrols and other resources before observers on the scene may even be aware an incident is underway.

All eyes on the busy holiday period

All eyes on the busy holiday period

As SLSSA headed into the busy 2022-23 Christmas holiday season, it knew it had to act quickly to get a camera network in place before the summer rush began. Backed by Surf Life Saving Australia funding, SLSSA began hunting for the best technology to make its plan a reality.

After looking at the various off-the-shelf solutions available in the market, SLSSA examined what Axis had to offer. The organisation quickly realised that off-the-shelf options wouldn’t be able to match the capabilities of the Axis technology, which had everything it needed to meet its needs. 

As part of its ongoing corporate social responsibility efforts, Axis decided to donate its time, products and resources to SLSSA and its camera network project for free, vastly expanding and extending the reach of the trial SLSSA was planning. 

With the Axis camera technology being donated to SLSSA, project resources were redirected into additional technology that could maximise the effectiveness of SLSSA’s trial. Axis engaged longtime South Australian partner BST, which agreed to undertake the implementation of the project on a pro bono basis to further support SLSSA in its mission. 

To help SLSSA get started on a proof-of-concept trial of its proposed camera network Axis donated five of its state-of-the-art pan, tilt, zoom (PTZ) network cameras to deploy in the areas identified as being in greatest need of additional support and visibility. 

Meanwhile, SLSSA installed a commercial video wall, consisting of eight monitors, in its State Operations Centre. BST worked with SLSSA to install the video wall and deploy the Axis camera network, also sorting out the networking infrastructure needed to connect the new hardware. 

A swift deployment for safer beaches

A swift deployment for safer beaches

As the summer holidays approached, BST had a tight timeframe within which to deploy the cameras, networking equipment and video wall needed to put the proof-of-concept through its paces at its busiest time of year, when it could make the maximum impact on public safety.

BST led the implementation of the Axis camera network, starting by first deploying the hardware at the busy Glenelg Beach, not far from SLSSA’s State Operations Centre at West Beach, to ensure this high-traffic site had coverage in time for the Christmas holiday rush.

In addition to Glenelg, the BST team visited the other sites flagged by SLSSA to gauge the potential for camera positioning and access. Some sites required the cameras to be attached to wall brackets, and some needed ceiling mounts or other solutions to obtain the desired coverage. Hooked up to new or existing network infrastructure, the cameras were linked to the Axis Companion video management system installed along with the video wall at the SLSSA State Operations Centre.

After Glenelg, the rest of the camera fleet was deployed relatively quickly, with four of the five Axis cameras installed at the sites nominated by SLSSA before New Year’s Eve 2022, one of the busiest days of the year for SLSSA and its team of emergency responders. 

This meant the new system, with its fleet of Axis PTZ network cameras, was largely up and running for trial over the Christmas and New Year’s period, when beach activity would be at its highest – perfect conditions for assessing the effectiveness of the proof of concept.

Once the Axis Companion video management software, including its Digital Autotracking 2 solution to detect and follow moving objects, was installed in its State Operations Centre, SLSSA had the ability to control each camera and actively monitor large areas of coastline remotely, keeping on-site patrols and emergency services in the loop should the need arise. 

All eyes on the water

All eyes on the water

With the cameras operational in time for the Christmas and New Year’s period, the SLSSA State Operations Centre was able to remotely monitor a number of critical incidents that required a complex response and high-level situational awareness. 

The camera network came into its own as early as New Year’s Eve 2022, with SLSSA involved in the New Year’s Eve operation at Glenelg, during which it provided support to the Event Emergency Operation Centre, with cameras used throughout the event to provide situational awareness and improve safety. 

During the New Year’s Eve celebrations at Glenelg, the State Operations Centre located an intoxicated person swimming after sunset. The SOC was able to track the at-risk person until the individual had exited the water, reducing the resources that would otherwise be required to track down and ensure the safety of somebody who had entered the water after drinking.

Also on New Year’s Eve, the State Operations Centre was made aware of a vessel offshore that discharged a flare at midnight. SLSSA was able to remotely assess the status of the vessel through live camera footage, for the Event Emergency Operations Centre, determining it was not in distress. This meant it could avoid calling other emergency services to the site, meaning valuable resources could be focused elsewhere for the busiest night of the year. 

Since then, lifeguards have executed a mass rescue at Goolwa Surf Life Saving Club, during which the State Operations Centre was able to remotely monitor and advise other responders at the site that lifeguards were requesting further assistance in the water, a process that would have taken much longer without the assistance of the camera network. Four family members and a bystander were rescued. No lives were lost. 

Beyond these specific incidents, there have been numerous events in which the Axis camera network has become critical to a successful outcome. In some instances, the vision provided by the camera network has allowed SLSSA to call other emergency services before they were requested by on-site patrols, a factor that can help to save lives in situations when seconds count.

Expanding capabilities for greater public safety

Expanding capabilities for greater public safety

The Axis camera network has quickly become an invaluable resource for the SLSSA SOC team. With the proof-of-concept phase of the project already helping to save lives and enable more efficient use of resources for SLSSA, the organisation is working towards the second stage of its initiative, which includes extended capabilities. 

One of the first things SLSSA will look at, in partnership with Axis and BST, is the implementation of a suitable video management system with analytics capabilities, and an appropriate recording solution to capture the footage provided by the cameras for later use, beyond the initial recording capability under a proof of concept test. 

With analytics capabilities, such as digital trip wires, built into the network, SLSSA hopes to automate certain aspects of its monitoring activities, enabling its team to be alerted if and when an incident occurs, even if a video feed is not being actively monitored. This capability will further extend resources and help to save more lives. 

Moreover, ongoing analysis of the coverage provided by the camera footprint will provide SLSSA with ever-increasing amounts of useful data with which to more efficiently manage its on-site patrols and lifeguard deployment, a valuable tool for an organisation tasked with keeping expansive areas safe for swimmers and the public in general. 

Our partnership with Axis has enabled SLSSA to establish an extended camera network and complete a far more extensive trial than we might have undertaken otherwise. We’ve now got a much greater knowledge of what’s going on at all times in the locations where the new Axis cameras have been deployed. The additional visibility the camera network gives us is already saving lives, supporting our core vision.
Damien Marangon

Saving South Australia’s swimmers with network video technology

Surf Life Saving South Australia (SLSSA) gets remote eyes on the water for greater public safety, further extending its resources with a new Axis camera network to save more lives.

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