Volunteer surf lifesavers will raise the red and yellow flags for the final time this long weekend as the 2018/19 patrol season officially comes to a close on Monday.
This season, Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) members saved more than 1,300 lives across the state’s beaches, including 597 on the Gold Coast.
Between the September school holidays and start of May, more than 350,000 hours had been dedicated by volunteers to protecting the lives of beachgoers.
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During this time, the red and yellow army performed 39,230 preventative actions to proactively safeguard swimmers, and applied 13,273 first aid treatments.
SLSQ Acting Chief Executive Officer Kris Beavis said it had been a challenging season for the state’s volunteers who had performed a remarkable job.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our surf lifesaving volunteers. Their efforts over the past eight months have to be commended, especially in light of some difficult circumstances,” he said.
“This year our volunteers experienced a bluebottle influx in January, weathered Tropical Cyclone Oma in February and tragically, encountered several suspected drownings.
“The work of our lifesavers has been nothing short of amazing, especially when you consider the significant number of rescues performed this season. Those rescued have been given a second chance at life thanks to Queensland’s volunteer surf lifesavers.”
In acknowledging the work of Queensland’s volunteers, Mr Beavis paid tribute to their Victorian counterparts who had suffered a devastating loss this season.
“The Australian lifesaving community is still in mourning following the loss of two of our own on Easter Sunday, when two Port Campbell SLSC members lost their lives in the line of duty,” he said.
“The tragic incident highlights the risk that our lifesavers and lifeguards undertake in order to protect our beaches, and serves as an important reminder for all beachgoers to consider the consequences of their actions.”
Mr Beavis said SLSQ had rolled out two pivotal safety campaigns this season in an attempt to further educate the community of the dangers of swimming at unpatrolled locations.
“The shocking images of a mother failing to notice her child disappearing beneath the waves formed the basis of our first campaign which was launched at Christmas,” he said.
“We followed this up with a television commercial in late January depicting equally confronting scenes of a young couple’s beach trip turning to tragedy through a simple error in judgement.
“Our goal is to have swimming between the flags become as instinctive as putting on a seatbelt when you hop in a car, as failure to heed either of these can have fatal consequences.
“Both campaigns were unapologetic in nature, highlighting the deadly consequences of complacency.”
Over the past season, SLSQ delivered several initiatives at blackspots across the state in a bid to offer even greater protection to beachgoers.
Additional roving patrols on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts were implemented, along with dusk patrols, mid-week jet ski patrols and extended patrol hours during peak holiday periods.
A trial of Life-Fi – wi-fi which pushes out real-time safety alerts between the red and yellow flags – was undertaken at select beaches in South East and North Queensland, with a view to rolling the technology out across the state next season.
Mr Beavis urged beachgoers to continue to take caution throughout the cooler months and put safety first.
“Our lifeguards will continue to patrol at key beaches across the state, but there will be a reduction in hours, so please ensure the flags are up before you enter the water for a swim.”