Surf Life Saving New South Wales has issued a warning to beachgoers to heed safety advice after a huge weekend on beaches, with heatwave conditions and large swells forecast for today.
Traditionally one of the biggest beach days of the year, January 26 is shaping up to bust all records for beach attendance across the state.
Surf lifesavers are on high alert and in some areas resources are stretched to the limit after a horror weekend of rescues and emergency callout incidents.
Solid swell conditions and big crowds saw many people get into trouble and there were a number of near drownings dealt with by lifesavers and lifeguards.
Record breaking number of rescues
Over the weekend there was a record-breaking 303 rescues performed by lifesavers, 1200 first aids and 15,560 preventative actions. On top of this, there were 86 incidents.
The State Operations Centre responded to 17 emergency callouts and 25 Ambulances were called. Bluebottles were also an issue with 375 stings treated and beaches were closed 94 times due to bluebottle swarms.
The Illawarra region was a particular hotspot with several near-drownings and callouts to rescue people swept off rocks. This is particularly concerning after the loss of three rockfishers at Port Kembla just days ago.
Byron Bay a coastal hotspot
A number of major incidents on the Far North Coast including one yesterday morning, prompted Surf Life Saving NSW to reinforce the messages of beach safety.
On Monday morning Hastings Point Lifeguards advised the State Operations Centre they required an ambulance to provide additional support with a medical incident.
Emergency Services were later informed that the medical incident occurred between the red and yellow flags. The prompt response from ALS Lifeguards was credited by ALS Supervisor Brent Lethbridge : ‘Lifeguards were able to respond rapidly and ensure the best outcome for the patient as we have a constant visual on the flags.’
Byron Bay is considered a hotspot and both lifeguards and lifesavers are preparing for what has become one of their toughest days of the season, with the swell up and good conditions forecast.
ALS Supervisor Scott McCartney said the Bay on Australia Day is expected to be particularly testing.
‘We’re expecting it to be a big, challenging day in the Bay with so many people making a day of it and often drinking over a long period,’ said Mr McCartney.
‘The afternoon is always really busy for us with a lot of people jumping in the water after spending hours drinking and baking in the sun or just swimming at isolated and dangerous locations.
‘Just stop, think and make the extra effort and swim at a patrolled location so it’s a good day for everyone.’
Patrolled locations for the Byron Bay Shire this week include; South Golden; Brunswick; The Wreck; Main Beach; The Pass; Wategos; Tallow; Suffolk Park, and; Broken Head
COVID restrictions impact beach management
COVID restrictions may also impact beach management today with popular hotspots expected to reach capacity for crowding and councils may look at restricting access at certain locations. (Beach access restrictions can be viewed via the Beachsafe website and app.)
SLSNSW Director of Lifesaving Joel Wiseman congratulated the army of volunteers who patrolled over the weekend and thanked those who will be out in force again today, giving up their own Australia Day celebrations to keep people safe.
‘I can’t thank our volunteers enough for their vigilance and commitment over the weekend.
‘It’s not just our lifesavers on the beach but also our personnel stationed in the State Operations Centre who were inundated with requests for assistance from emergency services and the club and branch callout teams who responded to so many people in trouble outside of patrolled locations, he said.
The majority of the public listen to safety advice
‘I want to thank the majority of the public who listened to the safety advice of lifesavers and lifeguards over the weekend. However, today is the busiest day of the season and I urge the public not to let their guard down and remain vigilant, as the ocean can be a dangerous place.
‘I urge everyone to enjoy Australia Day and our beautiful coastal beaches, but please stop and think before taking unnecessary risks.’
As people flock to the coast to enjoy the holiday, surf lifesavers are also reminding people to avoid swimming under the influence of drugs and alcohol and to check the Beachsafe website or download the Beachsafe app to find patrolled beach locations before leaving home.
‘Have a great Australia Day but make sure that if you’re heading to the beach, go to a patrolled location and only swim between the red and yellow flags,’ said Mr Wiseman.
Since 1 July 2020, 26 people have drowned on the NSW coastline, with five fatalities in the last week.
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 access restrictions visit the Beachsafe.org.au Website or Download the App