Kayakers find new technology the right call for rescue

Friday 08 January, 2021

The Marshall Liberal Government has welcomed ground-breaking technology that has already saved stranded kayakers from rough waters at Seacliff, pinpointing the pair’s location after a Triple Zero call.

The swift New Year’s Eve rescue is a direct result of automated Advanced Mobile Location (AML) – new state-of-the-art technology that speeds up emergency response times for people in need of urgent help.

It proved crucial when two people became caught in strong winds on a kayak approximately 3.2km offshore at Seacliff beach, unable to paddle back to safety on Thursday, December 31.

A man on the kayak called Triple Zero, automatically activating AML, which honed in on the remote location with lifesaving accuracy.

“Saving lives is the number one priority for our police and emergency services. This technology further enhances the capability of SAPOL to respond to emergency situations quickly and precisely,” Police Minister Vincent Tarzia said.

“SAPOL Water Operations officers had clear-cut information to work from, allowing them to locate the kayakers quickly and return them home without injury.”

AML allows smartphones to send an automatic location estimate when a caller dials Triple Zero. It uses the same location technology that smartphone owners use every day to look up directions, order food through online delivery services or book rideshare services.

SAPOL is one of the first 13 agencies in Australia to adopt automated AML.

Across Australia each day, an average of 27,000 emergency calls are made to Triple Zero for police, fire and ambulance assistance. More than 75% of calls come from mobile phones.

Smartphones use GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile network information to send an SMS text message with the estimated location to Triple Zero.

“South Australians already use this technology daily for food and travel, but now it could save their lives,” Minister Tarzia said.

“AML is capable of providing a caller’s location within a 5-metre radius outdoors and a 25-metre radius indoors.

“If callers have been in a serious crash, or are in shock after an incident, sometimes they cannot identify their surroundings. AML is a game-changer that ensures help will be on the way as fast as possible.”

AML capability has been automatically activated on Android mobile devices running Android operating system 4.1 and higher with Google Play Services installed. Apple iPhone users will need to update their operating system to use iOS 14.3 to enable the AML capability within their device. iOS 14.3 is available on the iPhone 6s and above.

Telstra is responsible for the operation of Triple Zero and has been working with Apple and Google to test the technology for iPhone and Android devices, as well as mobile carriers and emergency service organisations across the country.

SAPOL Assistant Commissioner Ian Parrott said AML is incorporated into the South Australia Computer Aided Despatch (SACAD) system and will provide accurate mobile phone location data.

“In other countries across Europe and also the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, we’ve seen a number of lives saved and positive operational outcomes as a result of AML,” Assistant Commissioner Parrott said.

“About 78 per cent of Triple Zero calls come from mobile phones so AML has the potential to save lives by enabling police and other emergency services to respond more efficiently.”

Triple Zero callers are still required to supply their address or location to the emergency operators as a first priority. AML does not replace this need.

Other South Australian emergency services are expected to adopt AML at the end of fire danger season.

How AML works:

  • AML-enabled smartphones recognise when an emergency call is made to Triple Zero.
  • If not already activated, AML initiates the smartphone’s location service function.
  • The smartphone automatically sends an SMS with the estimated location to the Triple Zero call taker.
  • This SMS is sent in the background. The caller is not required to perform an action.
  • If the smartphone’s location services are switched off at the time the call was initiated, AML will temporarily activate the location service for the duration of the emergency call.
  • When the emergency call has finished, AML will be de-activated.
  • AML is not used to track callers.