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Lifeguards first responders

Wellington Free Ambulance head of Emergency Planning for Wellington Free Ambulance Andrew Keenan, and Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club Captain Mike Taylor at Riversdale Beach. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

By Emily Norman

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The next time you call 111 at Riversdale, a lifeguard could be the first at the scene.

The area’s surf lifesaving club is now connected to the Wellington Free Ambulance communications network after signing a memorandum of understanding with the organisation, which went live on Friday.

The process works by Riversdale Surf Lifesaving captains and trained first responders being connected to the Wellington Free Ambulance communications network.

When a 111 call comes in for the Riversdale community, these people receive a text alert and immediately head to the scene of the emergency.

From the scene, surf life savers will be able to speak directly to specially trained paramedics in the Wellington Communications Center who will provide lifesaving advice to the lifeguards.

Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club Chairman Dave Rose said it was a “huge relief to know we can have someone there in five minutes”, and that the people responding were trained lifesavers.

“Our volunteers deal with everything from dog bites, sting ray attacks, people falling out of trees as well as what we do on the beach — pulling people out of the water and doing CPR,” Mr Rose said.

“Our people will have all the medical gear to address the person’s need.

“If we can save a life because of our actions, well isn’t that great.”

Dave Rose says that this MoU enhanced what the Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club could offer back to the community.

“If we can make a difference to an incident that unfolds, then we’ve paid something back.”

Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic Andrew Gladding said the agreement was about getting help to remote communities fast.
“It takes an ambulance under lights and sirens 45 minutes to get from Masterton to Riversdale, and about the same for the Lifeflight helicopter if they are coming from Wellington airport,” Mr Gladding said.

“We already link in with the rural fire service and the helicopter to get help to this area, but this agreement allows us to coordinate with surf lifesaving as well.”

Mr Gladding said time saving was key to the agreement, but just as important was the sense of comfort for locals, knowing that their surf lifesaving people are connected to the 111 system and will be able to help in an emergency.

“As well as keeping people safe at the beach during summer, they’ll have an ongoing role of responding to life threatening events as they happen in people’s homes, on the roads and in the wider community,” he said.

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