After eight months and more than 300,000 hours on patrol, Queensland’s volunteer surf lifesavers from Forrest Beach down to Rainbow Bay have raised the red and yellow flags one final time today as the 2016/17 patrol season officially came to a close.
The red and yellow army of volunteer surf lifesavers has been keeping Queensland beaches safe on weekends and public holidays since September last year, and will now take a well-earned rest before the 2017/18 patrol season commences towards the end of this year.
Lifesavers in North Queensland will continue to patrol beaches from Port Douglas to Mission Beach throughout the cooler months.
From September last year through to today, Queensland lifesavers watched over 3.41 million people on our beaches. During this time they performed 71,931 preventative actions to proactively safeguard swimmers, treated 24,912 first aid patients, and directly saved the lives of 936 beachgoers via in-water rescues.
Disappointingly, 690 of these rescues occurred outside of the red and yellow flags.
Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) chief operating officer George Hill ESM said it had been another challenging, yet successful, season.
“Our surf lifesaving volunteers have done a tremendous job across the past eight months, in sometimes challenging and quite difficult conditions,” he said.
“But their efforts have been nothing short of remarkable with more than 900 lives saved since September alone.
“That’s 900 plus people who were given a second chance in life and could go home to their loved ones thanks to the training and dedication of Queensland’s volunteer surf lifesavers,” he said.
The past season saw SLSQ implement a number of key patrol and educational initiatives at selected blackspots and high-risk locations across the state in a bid to offer even greater protection to Queensland beachgoers.
SLSQ introduced extended patrol hours and roving services across the state’s coastline during peak periods while, on the Gold Coast, dusk patrols were extended through to 10pm at Surfers Paradise during busy holidays.
Despite these efforts, there have still been three drownings since July last year, including two during the patrol season (one at North Queensland and one on the Sunshine Coast).
While significantly down on 11 this time last year, Mr Hill said it was still too many.
“For us, even one drowning is one too many, and we remain committed to boosting and improving services at all levels,” he said.
As Queensland’s volunteer surf lifesavers take a well-earned rest over winter, beaches will still be patrolled by SLSQ’s professional lifeguards in most regions across the state, or council lifeguards on the Gold Coast.
Meanwhile SLSQ will remain active across the winter months, with 24/7 emergency response groups now active and operating in all regions across the state while, on the Gold Coast, lifesavers will continue to perform roving dawn patrols each day of the year.
The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service will also continue to operate in South East Queensland during the cooler months, with crews remaining on-call around the clock to assist with emergency search and rescue operations.