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Clarence Estate staff member on a mission to save lives

Hall & Prior Clarence Estate Albany Surf Life Saving Club Emergency Response Team

Phil Gough recently qualified for Albany Surf Life Saving Club’s Wesfarmers Emergency Response Team.

A Clarence Estate maintenance staff member is on a mission to save lives after joining Albany Surf Life Saving Club’s Wesfarmers Emergency Response Team (ERT).

The group work closely with the Albany Sea Rescue Squad and the Water Police and use jet-skis during search and rescue operations. In comparison to other vessels, jet-skis mean the team can get to hard-to-reach areas or go out in difficult conditions.

Phil, who has just celebrated seven years working at Clarence Estate, had been a surf life saver for many years but had taken a break from the club before set his sights on joining the ERT.

Hall & Prior Clarence Estate Albany Western Australia

Phil has just celebrated seven years working at Clarence Estate.

“It’s a different level of surf lifesaving, it’s the next tier higher and that excited me,” Phil said.

Before he could book in to be assessed for the highly skilled team, he had to ensure his fitness levels would meet the group’s standards, a process which took the better part of three years.

To qualify for the ERT, applicants have to be able to swim 800 metres in under seven and a half minutes, as well as a 50-second challenge that involves swimming under water for 25m and swimming freestyle for another 25. This is on top of completing a modified Half Iron Man in 25 minutes, made up of a 400m swim, two 400m runs and a 400m board paddle.

“The most challenging part was building up to that level of fitness, as well as how cold the waters are in Albany,” he said. “We trained in the depths of winter to ensure we would be ready for the summer season. There were times where the water was only seven degrees so that was tough.”

The ERT are always on-call for emergencies and while Phil hasn’t had to head out on a rescue effort yet, he recently took part in a combined exercise with the Water Police.

Clarence Estate Hall & Prior

Phil during a combined exercise with the local Water Police.

“There were three boats and two jet-skis in the water all up and we took out a mannequin, dropped it into the water, left the site and then said ‘okay, let’s go back and find it’,” he said.

Phil said the operation was conducted near Breaksea Island, which is about 12 kilometres south east of Albany.

“The only time we could see land was when we went over the top of a wave, so we were pretty far out,” he said.  While this situation would make most people nervous, Phil said he is always comfortable in the water.

“Being part of this group is a really rewarding experience, we’re the last call for life,” he said. “It’s busier for us over the summer and during public holiday periods, but whenever someone’s in the water we’re on call.”

Being involved with surf lifesaving runs in Phil’s family too, with his six-year-old son being involved in the club’s children’s’ program since his was three, while his daughter, aged two, is about to enrol for the next season.

Congratulations Phil on this outstanding achievement.

Read more about our Albany home, located in Western Australia's Great Southern region, here.

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