Skip to main content

Having made nearly 3,000 rescues this summer already, NSW volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards are urging the public to understand their limitations as a “low intensity heatwave” approaches.

The Bureau of Meteorology indicates that a low intensity heatwave is in place for eastern NSW until Sunday.

Since December 1, volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards have conducted 2,727 rescues. In that same period, 23 coastal drownings have been recorded, seven of which occurred in a devastating six-day period between Wednesday 8 and Monday 13 February.

It means we have now seen nine drownings in February and the coastal drowning toll for the period dating July 1-now sits at 35.

Off the back of one of the most shocking weeks for coastal drownings in recent memory, NSW surf lifesavers and lifeguards are encouraging anyone who plans to beat the heatwave this weekend and visit the coastline to do so by visiting a patrolled location and swimming between the red and yellow flags.

Callout teams and additional Support Operations assets are on standby across the state, with jetskis, inflatable rescue boats and drones out in force. Duty Officers in each region will be performing enhanced proactive surveillance activities and the State Operations Centre in Sydney has additional operators rostered to cope with the number of incidents which are expected.

“With hot conditions forecast, we have a very simple message for anyone heading to the coast,” said Surf Life Saving NSW CEO, Steven Pearce.

“By all means, enjoy the weekend with your friends, family and loved ones, but make sure that if you’re heading to the beach, you visit one where the red and yellow flags fly.

“If we can’t see you, we can’t save you.”

The dangers of swimming at unpatrolled and remote locations have been tragically highlighted across the summer – all drownings recorded to date have occurred at an unpatrolled location, outside of patrol hours and the red and yellow flags.

SLSNSW Director of Lifesaving, Joel Wiseman, said that with hazardous surf conditions and big crowds expected in the coming days, the risks of swimming at unpatrolled locations had increased significantly.

“Too often we have seen tragic incidents where a person has drowned while trying to rescue someone else. You might be a good swimmer yourself, however trying to save someone else, often without any rescue equipment or training is extremely difficult and dangerous,” he said.

This summer, there have been five fatalities where bystanders have drowned while attempting to rescue someone caught in a rip.

“If you do see someone in trouble at an unpatrolled location, call for help, dial Triple-Zero and if you must attempt the rescue yourself, take a minute to try to locate some form of rescue device or flotation aid, like a bodyboard to take with you. It can buy you and the person you’re assisting precious minutes afloat until help arrives,” Joel continued.

Surf lifesavers are also reminding people to check the BeachSafe website or download the BeachSafe app to find patrolled beach locations before leaving home.

Thursday 16 February 2023