Thousands of volunteer surf lifesavers will return to Queensland beaches this Saturday (19 September) when Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) kicks off its 2015/16 volunteer patrol season.
The season launch will see lifesavers from Forrest Beach down to Rainbow Bay raise the red and yellow flags on local beaches every weekend and public holiday until May 2016, with lifeguards continuing their weekday patrols.
Lifesavers in North Queensland have been patrolling since early April and will continue to watch over local beaches until the beginning of marine stinger season in November.
The start of the season coincides with the release of SLSQ’s 2015 Coast Safe Report, which identifies a number of black-spots across the state, following ten coastal drowning deaths in the past 12 months, and 78 fatalities across the past decade.
With that in mind, SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill urged swimmers to ‘put safety first’ this summer, reminding beachgoers there had never been a drowning between SLSQ’s red and yellow flags.
“Each season, thousands of volunteer lifesavers dedicate countless hours of their own time to watch over and protect beachgoers, and yet every year there are still people who venture outside of the flagged areas, putting themselves and others at risk,” Mr Hill said.
“The warmer months are obviously a great time to head down to the beach with family and friends but it’s really important that people use some common sense and think about their own personal safety; just one silly mistake or moment of madness could have long-lasting and potentially fatal consequences.
“When the sun’s out and the beaches are busy, it’s crucial that people follow the advice of surf lifesavers and lifeguards, and only swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flagged areas. Always remember, if lifesavers can’t see you they can’t save you.
“There has never been a preventable drowning between SLSQ’s red and yellow patrol flags, and that’s certainly not a coincidence,” Mr Hill said.
Tragically, despite these efforts, there were still ten preventable beach-related drownings recorded on Queensland beaches – a figure, Mr Hill said, SLSQ was trying hard to reduce.
“Unfortunately these drowning deaths all occurred away from the flags or outside of patrol hours, which is disappointing to see and certainly something that we’re working hard to address moving forward,” Mr Hill said.
“Even one person drowning is one too many. We’re striving for the safest possible season this year, with our lifesavers on the beach to be supported by increased aerial patrols, daily water craft patrols, dawn patrols, emergency response groups, and a live feed of high-risk areas via our network of coastal cameras.”
Last year the ‘red and yellow army’ of volunteer surf lifesavers spent 352,805 hours on patrol along Queensland’s coastline, performing 126,369 preventative actions to proactively safeguard swimmers, treated 6647 first aid patients and, most importantly, directly saved the lives of 2,213 people through in-water rescues.
Meanwhile, SLSQ’s professional lifeguard service performed 522,462 preventative actions, 12,458 first aid treatments and saved 1,435 lives.