BEN signs to the rescue at Garden Island, WA

Published on LEUT Mick Wheeler (author), LSIS Bradley Darvill (photographer)

Location(s): Garden Island, WA

Topic(s): Safety / WHS, Garden Island, WA, Community Engagement

L-R: Commanding Officer HMAS Stirling Captain Ansley Morthorpe, CSC, RAN; Naval Police Coxswains, Leading Seaman Cory Lewis and Able Seaman Jake Cattlin; John George and Cody Moorfoot from Willson's Security; and base firefighters, Jason Upton and Michael Williams at the Beach Emergency Number (BEN) sign located on the beach at Beagle Bay, Garden Island, WA. (photo: LSIS Bradley Darvill)
L-R: Commanding Officer HMAS Stirling Captain Ansley Morthorpe, CSC, RAN; Naval Police Coxswains, Leading Seaman Cory Lewis and Able Seaman Jake Cattlin; John George and Cody Moorfoot from Willson's Security; and base firefighters, Jason Upton and Michael Williams at the Beach Emergency Number (BEN) sign located on the beach at Beagle Bay, Garden Island, WA.

In a combined effort from Navy, Parks and Wildlife Service and the Western Australian State Government, on-water safety has been greatly improved around Garden Island in Rockingham, Western Australia.

Eleven new Beach Emergency Number signs have been installed that help direct emergency services to critical incidents.

Known as BEN signs, the unique placards that dot the southwest coastline of Western Australia, from Geraldton to Esperance, ensure accuracy when responding to a coastal emergency.

For the BEN sign system to work effectively on Garden Island, Senior Ranger Steve Booth worked with Navy to unify the naming of features and locations on Garden Island so Navy personnel and attending emergency services were on the same page.

“BEN signs help us get to a boating incident, distressed swimmer or a marine animal attack faster,” Mr Booth said.

“As I went through the evaluation process of where the signs should be located, we ran into difficulties with some location and road names only known locally.

“We made sure that each unique alpha-numeric code linked to the ‘000’ emergency call centre had all of the required site specific information recorded accurately and formally recognised local names of certain geographic features.

“This will avoid any confusion around reaching a BEN sign location, so first responders such as ambulance and police can assist people without delay.

Mr Booth said when used in conjunction with the Sharksmart app, the BEN signs will make Garden Island safer for all water-based activity users.

“For instance, the divers looking for crayfish around Gilbert Point (BEN sign GD94) previously had no way of knowing if the area was shark-safe but now they can use the Sharksmart app to get immediate verification,” he said.

Leading Seaman Naval Police Coxswain Cory Lewis said the BEN signs will be a great benefit for responding to marine incidents, particularly where both Navy personnel and Parks and Wildlife Rangers might render assistance.

“While a BEN sign itself cannot prevent a marine incident occurring, being able to locate where the incident has taken place around our base helps Navy and other first responders to deal with a situation quicker,” he said.

HMAS Stirling Commanding Officer, Captain Ainsley Morthorpe, commented on the many benefits of the BEN sign installation.

“Garden Island is a place of significant natural beauty and the installation of the BEN signs has facilitated the formal recording of many of the features on the coastline that so brilliantly highlight that natural beauty,” he said.

“More importantly the installation of the BEN signs on Garden Island will significantly help Navy and first responders in the future assist in the unfortunate event that a marine incident occurs.”

For more information on Sea Smart apps go to sharksmart.com.au/staying-safe/sharksmart-wa-app/ or to emergencyapp.triplezero.gov.au.

Imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery: https://images.defence.gov.au/S20192568.