Wollongong City Council has revealed plans to set up a dedicated "QR" code reader on signage at Puckeys Beach to alert would-be swimmers to dangerous rips or hazards right in front of them.
In what the council said would be an Australian first, the system would allow people arriving at the beach to use their smartphones to scan the QR image, which is similar to a barcode but arranged in a square pattern, and be given "real-time" information on water conditions, current hazards and the location of the nearest surf lifesaving patrol.
The use of the technology to deliver up-to-date information on individual beach conditions along the coast is one of a number of recommendations outlined in the council's Coastal Public Safety Risk Assessment report.
The 406-page document, prepared by Surf Life Saving Australia's research arm, Australian CoastSafe, includes a risk assessment of 10 unpatrolled beaches in Wollongong and outlines potential measures to control or reduce those risks.
The council's recreation services manager Mark Bond said the council began to research implementing the QR recommendation when it received the first draft of the assessment report in September.
"We think this is a great way to give people real-time information about the beaches they might be considering swimming at," he said.
"Wollongong will be the first area in Australia to implement this initiative, which will give people information on hazards that might be present and tell them where the nearest surf patrol is."
Mr Bond said the council hoped to have the technology in place by mid-December.
The council has also revealed plans to buy another "emergency response beacon", after initial trials of the device at Puckeys Beach last summer proved successful.
The specially designed beacons, which are erected on the beach, can be used to alert surf patrols if a swimmer or surfer is in danger or requires assistance. Mr Bond said Surf Life Saving NSW had asked the council to trial the device at Puckeys last year.
He said that while it had not been activated for rescue situations during the trial, it had been used in incidents where people required major first aid.
"We had two incidents last year involving surfers, one of which had a dislocated knee," Mr Bond said.
"The beacon was activated on both occasions, and it allowed surf lifeguards to respond."
Mr Bond confirmed the council would buy a second beacon to install at Coniston.
The report recommends the council consider installing the devices at each of the 10 major unpatrolled beaches.
It also recommends increased "roving" patrols from lifeguards and surf lifesavers, establishment of an "after hours" patrol and a widespread public awareness campaign.
Additional precautions are recommended for high-risk beaches such as Puckeys.