Surf Lifesavers across the state are on standby for incidents, rescues and other emergencies in the lead-up to the traditionally busy and often dangerous New Year’s period.
Surf Life Saving NSW say the number of rescues over Christmas has been significant, with more than 200 rescues performed by lifesavers since 21 December, one confirmed drowning and some near fatal incidents.
While lifesavers and lifeguards are bracing for the usual spate of incidents related to New Year’s Eve revelry, some parts of the state, including the Greater Sydney area and the Northern Beaches are expected to be much quieter due to COVID-related gathering restrictions.
In addition, with persistent wet weather across large parts of NSW, the crowds normally experienced on New Year’s Day across beaches may not be as significant as past years.
Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales said New Year’s Day is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year on our beaches. ‘While crowds might be reduced this year due to COVID restrictions and the weather, it is still an extremely dangerous period for drownings, coastal deaths and other emergencies.
Play it safe around all forms of water
‘We are urging people to play it safe around all forms of water and remember that alcohol and swimming can be a deadly combination.’
In the north of the state, lifeguards and lifesavers are preparing for increased incidents with additional support operations measures, with the focus around Byron’s Main Beach area and the Tweed.
Jimmy Keough from the Far North Coast SLS Branch said Byron remains a hazard due to the coastal erosion which makes it hard to actively patrol due to the instability along the dunes. ‘Poor water clarity and a high tide overnight on New Year’s Eve could also create issues.
‘We will have Support Operations Duty Officers in vehicles conducting surveillance patrols early, from around 6am on New Year’s Eve and throughout the day and evening.’
Byron services extending patrols until 2am
Byron Shire Lifeguards from the Australian Lifeguard Service will be extending surveillance patrols until 2am at the popular location to try to keep people safe.
Northern NSW Lifeguard Coordinator, Scott McCartney, said that despite the wet weather, there are still plenty of people on beaches across the north coast. ‘We’ll be watching for people attempting to swim under the influence, or at night as there are still lots of submerged rocks and other debris close to shore that could be dangerous to swimmers.’
In the Greater Sydney area, including Wollongong and the Central Coast, Surf Life Saving will be working with councils to assist with ensuring the latest restrictions on groups of people gathering are observed. ‘We are able to assist with monitoring crowds on beaches and we can also issue alerts via the Beachsafe website and app if councils request us to do so. These alerts can warn people that particular locations are becoming crowded and suggest they look at going to a different beach or coastal area,’ said George Shales.
Across the state, rescue assets including jetskis and UAVs will be conducting roving patrols to support lifesavers and lifeguards outside of patrolled locations.
Since 1 July 2020, there have been 17 coastal drownings recorded in NSW waters.
Beach Safety Tips
- Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags, for your nearest patrolled beach check the BeachSafe app or website
- Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information
- Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water
- Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising one arm
- In an emergency, dial Triple Zero
For information about patrol times, weather, and beach locations visit the Beachsafe Website or Download the App