Queensland lifesavers bring the flags down on 2015/16 patrol season

After eight months and 310,613 hours on patrol, Queensland’s volunteer surf lifesavers from Forrest Beach down to Rainbow Bay will raise the red and yellow flags one final time this weekend as the 2015/16 patrol season officially comes to a close on Monday 2 May.

The red and yellow army of volunteer surf lifesavers has been keeping Queensland beaches safe on weekends and public holidays since 19 September 2015, and will now take a well-earned rest before the 2016/17 patrol season commences towards the end of this year.

From September last year through to the end of March, Queensland’s volunteer surf lifesavers performed 87,807 preventative actions to proactively safeguard swimmers, treated 3,429 first aid patients and, most importantly, directly saved the lives of 1,355 people through in-water rescues.

Lifesavers in North Queensland will continue to patrol beaches from Port Douglas to Mission Beach throughout the cooler months.

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 remarkable job across the past eight months, in sometimes challenging and quite difficult conditions,” he said.

“Throughout the season they’ve had to contend with large crowds of beachgoers and periods of adverse weather, particularly off the back of Tropical Cyclone Winston in February.

“Their efforts have been nothing short of remarkable with more than 1,300 lives saved since September alone. That’s 1,300 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 initiatives at selected blackspots across the state in a bid to increase its reach along Queensland’s coastline and offer even greater protection to beachgoers.

SLSQ implemented roving patrols on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, while extended patrol hours were also rolled out across the state’s coastline during peak holiday periods.

On the Gold Coast, volunteer surf lifesavers introduced a dusk patrol service through to 7pm during the Christmas holiday period in a bid to actively engage with, and discourage, would-be swimmers from entering the water after dark.

Despite these efforts, there have been 11 drownings on Queensland beaches this season, up from eight at the same time last year, and a figure Mr Hill described as ‘far too high’.

“For us, even one drowning is one too many, and we remain committed to boosting and improving services at all levels,” he said.

“Tragically, all of these 11 drownings have either occurred at unpatrolled locations or outside of patrol hours, which is extremely disappointing and something we’ll continue to address moving forward.”

Mr Hill urged anyone heading to the beach during winter to take care and adopt a ‘safety first’ approach to swimming.

“Obviously there will be less people in the surf throughout autumn and winter, however it’s important that people still make the effort to swim only at patrolled beaches and only between the red and yellow flags,” he said.

While lifeguards will continue to maintain patrols at key beaches across the state, there may be a reduction in patrol days or hours.

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.

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