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Once again, Surf Life Saving volunteers have stepped up to assist the community in a time of crisis.

Since widespread flooding began to unfold with torrential rains impacting from 20 March 2021, Surf Life Saving and Australian Lifeguard Service assets, resources and personnel have been assisting other emergency services in all affected areas, bringing a range of response capabilities to bear on the one in one-hundred-year event.

Volunteers and assets including Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRB) and jetskis began assisting with flood relief and evacuations on the mid and lower north coasts as floodwaters began to rise.

Over the following week, many more volunteers and services joined the response effort as the unfolding natural disaster worsened and spread to other areas, including the Hawkesbury region near Sydney.

Sodden crews of volunteers and Australian Lifeguard Service lifeguards worked throughout a 7-day period in the Port Macquarie and Taree areas, helping with everything from doorknocking and delivering fuel to rescuing stranded residents trapped by rising floodwaters.

Over 160 members of Surf Life Saving NSW helped during the flood event, taking time off from paid work to put themselves in uncomfortable, and sometimes hazardous situations.

On the Colo River north-west of Sydney, SLS members helped to pull seven members of the public and crew to safety after a Marine Rescue Vessel capsized in the swollen waters.

In addition to volunteers in the field, the SLSNSW State Operations Centre played a central role in coordinating assets and personnel in flood areas and volunteer SLS Liaison Officers were embedded in the major SES incident command centres to help position equipment and personnel.

SLSNSW President George Shales OAM, said he was enormously proud of the efforts of volunteers and thanked clubs for providing equipment and people to assist the community.

“As usual, our volunteers responded immediately to requests for assistance and I can’t thank them enough for braving the conditions and forsaking their own comfort to help others in need.

“The expertise and contribution from Surf Life Saving has been highly commended by the other emergency services and is another example of the many ways we can all work together to protect the community in times of crisis,” said George Shales.

Despite responding to the flood event, surf clubs continued to support their local communities along the coast, as hazardous surf conditions impacted causing widespread inundation, coastal erosion and in some cases minor damage to surf club structures and buildings.

As floodwaters began to recede, polluted beaches, waterways and dangerous debris began to pose yet another hazard to beachgoers and volunteer surf lifesavers and many beaches throughout the state were closed for days.

Summary of Flood Activities

  • 49 SLS services responded
  • 164 members responded (operations and rescues)
  • State Operations Centre (SOC) operated extended hours and was on standby as backup to NW metro regional emergency ops centre.
  • SOC personnel hours increased by 30% with a dedicated Flood Liaison Officer rostered.
  • Multiple roles performed by members including Duty Officers, Forward Commanders, Liaison Officers, Rescue Water Craft operators, club callout teams and admin support.
  • Tasking included: SES liaison, aircraft coordination, evacuation, flood rescue, essential services transport, re-supply and damage assessment.
  • Areas assisted: Western Sydney, Mid North Coast, Port Macquarie-Hastings Region, Lower North Coast. Standby on South Coast/Far South Coast.
  • Strike teams launched to provide back-up from Branches including Sydney, Far North Coast, Sydney Northern Beaches and Central Coast.
  • Volunteers and staff worked together to provide support (UAV Service, Australian Lifeguard Service and SLSNSW clubs/Support Ops)


Wednesday 31 March 2021