SURF L IFE SAVIN G Q U E E N S LA N D | I SSU E 1 9 | 2019
HOLIDAY WRAP Record breaking summer of patrols SURF SAFETY Key campaigns launched in Queensland HERO LIFEGUARD Four lives saved in dramatic rescue
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
W E LC O M E
On behalf of Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ), welcome to the latest edition of our quarterly publication, Beyond Patrol. The past few months have been an extraordinarily busy time for our organisation and its members, as millions of people flocked to beaches up and down the coast. In fact, during December and January alone, SLSQ’s volunteer surf lifesavers and professional lifeguards combined to watch over more than 7.3 million people and pull 2,247 swimmers from the surf. These are remarkable figures which, if nothing else, provide a clear and tangible demonstration of the crucial role our members play across Queensland each year. From an organisational perspective, we recently said goodbye to longstanding CEO John Brennan OAM, who departed SLSQ in February after 25 years of professional service. John’s outstanding commitment and contribution to the surf lifesaving movement is second-to-none, and we wish him nothing but the best as he moves on to an exciting new chapter in his life. We are very fortunate that John’s expertise will not be lost to the movement entirely, as he continues his lifesaving service through his club and related activities. While change is inevitable within any organisation, it doesn’t impact or affect our core services. As we move forward, our focus remains firmly fixed on saving lives and protecting beachgoers along Queensland’s coastline. Importantly, our vision of ‘Zero preventable deaths in Queensland public waters’ continues to resonate strongly through all levels of the organisation and forms the crux of every decision made, from the boardroom to the beach. There are many outstanding individuals involved in the surf lifesaving movement, and they make enormous sacrifices to help keep others safe in the water. With that in mind, it was particularly pleasing to see three of our members recognised in the recent Australia Day Honours, including: • S LSQ and Mooloolaba Life Member Allan Inwood AM was appointed a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia for significant service to surf lifesaving at a local, state, and national level; • Currumbin’s Ian Hanson OAM was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to media, communications, and sport; and • Mooloolaba’s Darryl Johnson APM was awarded the Australian Police Medal for significant contribution to Queensland communities. I encourage you to read ahead to learn more about the key work being undertaken by our organisation to help save lives and reduce drowning deaths across the state.
Kris Beavis ACTING CEO Surf Life Saving Queensland
18 Manning Street, South Brisbane, QLD, 4101 | t. 07 3846 8000 | w. lifesaving.com.au Beyond Patrol staff and contributors | Writer: Cameron Ward | Designer: Chloe Koklas
LIFESAVERS REFLECT ON 110 Y E A R S O F R E S C U E S Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) recently marked a major organisational milestone, celebrating the 110th anniversary of its first recorded rescue. The dramatic rescue unfolded at Greenmount Beach on the afternoon of 21 February, 1909. It began like any other day but, just after 12:30pm, a deadly flash rip developed and quickly swept a group of beachgoers out to sea. As swimmers battled the treacherous rip and struggled to keep their heads above water, a group of pioneer surf lifesavers immediately responded, rushing to assist before using a traditional line and belt to successfully reel four women and a man back to shore. In addition to preventing an almost-certain mass drowning, SLSQ President Mark Fife OAM said the successful rescue 110 years ago would prove to be a defining moment in Queensland’s history. “You can actually trace a lot of the surf lifesaving movement in Queensland right back to that afternoon, when a group of men literally put their own lives on the line to rescue a group of strangers from a potentially deadly rip,” he said. “Their outstanding bravery, heroism, and commitment to coastal safety shone through brightly on that afternoon and, importantly, we still see those traits in our volunteer surf lifesavers and professional lifeguards on patrol today.
Looking back on the past 110 years, Mr Fife said there had been a number of core changes over the years to the way members went about saving lives. “We’ve come a long way since 1909, but one thing that’s never changed has been our unwavering commitment to protecting Queensland beaches and saving lives,” he said. “From those relatively humble beginnings, we now have 58 surf life saving clubs across the state and more than 32,000 members who dedicate countless hours each year to watching over and protecting millions of beachgoers. “The old belt and reel from a century ago has been replaced by helicopters, boards, rescue tubes, jet skis, inflatable boats, oxygen tanks, defibrillators, and more.”
“In the 110 years since, our movement has developed into a vital and integral part of Queensland, and much of that goes all the way back to what those early lifesavers did at Greenmount Beach that afternoon.”
Since that first rescue, SLSQ’s surf lifesavers and lifeguards have directly pulled more 143,000 swimmers from the water, including 4,123 in the past 12 months alone.
The inaugural rescue quickly led to the formation of Queensland’s first club at Greenmount Beach, the forerunner to today’s Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club.
“It’s all part of the job for us, but when you sit back and reflect on the weight of that number, you begin to realise what an incredible impact our movement has had on Queensland over the years,” Mr Fife said.
“We’ve come a long way since 1909, but one thing that’s never changed has been our unwavering commitment to protecting Queensland beaches and saving lives” − Mark Fife OAM, President
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
RECORD-BREAKING SUMMER O F PAT R O L S There was no Christmas break for Queensland surf lifesavers and lifeguards, with thousands of rescues, record crowds, and swarms of bluebottles keeping them busy over the peak summer months. In fact, new figures released by SLSQ have once again highlighted the crucial role they continue to play up and down the coast each year. During the peak holiday months of December and January, SLSQ’s ‘red and yellow army’ watched over and protected more than 7.3 million beachgoers, while successfully performing 2,247 rescues across the state. They also treated a stagging 43,940 beachgoers for cuts, abrasions, stings, and other minor injuries, and performed 290,983 preventative actions to proactively protect swimmers in and around the water. SLSQ operations coordinator Jason Argent said the holidays had proven to be a significant test for surf lifesavers and lifeguards, but one they had been well trained to handle. “The summer school holidays are easily one of the busiest periods for us on patrol, and we saw that again this year as millions of people visited Queensland beaches,” he said.
“Importantly however, every year there’s a significant amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure our surf lifesavers and lifeguards are ready to handle everything that’s thrown at them over the peak summer months, and the numbers really do speak for themselves,” he said. This year’s holiday figures represent a significant increase across all key areas when compared with the corresponding period of time in 2017/18. In total, preventative actions jumped 16 per cent, first aid treatments surged 171 per cent, and overall rescues increased by 97 per cent. “We’re really proud of the work that surf lifesavers and lifeguards were able to do over the school holidays, and it’s a genuine reflection of their commitment to coastal and aquatic safety,” Mr Argent said. “More than seven million people flocked to Queensland beaches over the past few months, and it’s important to remember they’re all people who put their trust in our organisation to keep them safe in the water. “It’s a big responsibility and an equally-big challenge, but it’s something our lifesavers and lifeguards have been welltrained to handle, and they did a fantastic job over the peak months,” he said.
“Over the past few months our lifesavers and lifeguards have been dealing with huge crowd numbers, hundreds of swimmers in the water at any given time, a significant increase in the number of young children on the beach, and an influx of international tourists who may not have a great understanding of local surf conditions.
Rescue data highlights surf safety trends
“It can obviously lead to some extremely challenging scenarios on patrol, particularly when you also factor in the likes of king tides, unstable surf conditions, heatwaves, bluebottles and all the other elements we face on the beach.
In December and January, some 2,247 rescues were completed across the state, representing a significant increase when compared to 1,140 rescues recorded during the corresponding period of time in 2017/18.
During December and January, SLSQ’s ‘red and yellow army’ watched over and protected more than 7.3 million beachgoers, while successfully performing 2,247 rescues.
The training and bravery of Queensland’s surf lifesavers and lifeguards continues to shine through at all levels across the state, with thousands of swimmers pulled from the water in recent months.
An extensive review of rescue data shows that people of all ages, sexes, and backgrounds are continuing to get into trouble along Queensland’s coastline. The average age of those rescued was 25 years, with the youngest patient just two, and the oldest 85. Interestingly, almost 37 per cent were under the age of 18, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced when it comes to protecting children and young beachgoers around the water.
Traditionally speaking, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have generally been overrepresented in SLSQ’s coastal data, and this continues to be the case with almost 30 per cent of rescues involving international beachgoers. Disappointingly, the number of people swimming outside of the red and yellow flags remains high. In total, more than 86 per cent of rescues were conducted outside of the designated patrol areas, including 208 people who were assisted from the surf more than five kilometres from the nearest set of flags. While Mr Argent said the statistics reflected the lifesaving work of patrolling members across Queensland, it also highlighted a concerning trend for the organisation. “It’s really rewarding for us as an organisation to sit back and reflect back on the past few months, and know that over
2,000 beachgoers were given a second chance at life thanks only to the outstanding efforts of our men and women on patrol,” Mr Argent said. “These are all mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who were pulled from the surf and able to go home to their families, and there’s no greater reward than that. “But we know our job’s not done yet; tragically, we’ve seen far too many people lose their lives over the years by swimming at unpatrolled locations, and the fact more than 80 per cent of rescues in recent months have been outside of the flags is particularly concerning. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to protect Queensland’s coastline and encourage beachgoers to make smart and educated decisions about their personal safety around the water,” he said.
C A L L S F O R G R E AT E R C O L L A B O R AT I O N AROUND SURF SAFETY
Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is calling for a broader approach to water safety across the state, with greater collaboration and consultation amongst key stakeholders when it comes to promoting safe swimming practices.
“One of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to protecting beachgoers and encouraging safe swimming practices is complacency, and the underlying ‘she’ll be right’ attitude that Australians are famous for,” he said.
The suggested approach could see the likes of airlines, tourism agencies, accommodation providers, land managers, and other industry bodies all playing a key role when it comes to engaging with beachgoers and reducing drowning deaths.
“It’s why thousands of people each year choose to enter the surf at unpatrolled stretches of beach rather than walking a few hundred metres to the nearest set of flags, and why some families opt for more remote locations rather than swimming with the crowds.
It follows a tragic run of 16 fatalities along Queensland’s coastline since SLSQ’s 2018/19 reporting year began on 1 July, representing one of the worst starts to a season on record. While the official cause of death is yet to be confirmed in several cases, it already reflects a significant increase when compared to six drownings recorded in 2017/18 and two in 2016/17. Unfortunately, the majority of recent fatalities have occurred at unpatrolled stretches of coast or outside of designated patrol hours. SLSQ Acting CEO Kris Beavis said it was disappointing that beachgoers were continuing to risk their lives by swimming outside of the flags, despite an increased organisational focus on promoting safe swimming practices. “As the state’s peak authority on coastal and aquatic safety, we’re more committed than ever to protecting beachgoers and reducing drowning deaths at all beaches and public waterways across Queensland,” he said. “In the past 12 months alone, SLSQ has increased our core services, expanded patrol hours in peak periods, rolled out extra roving patrols, deployed emergency response beacons, and delivered a number of other key initiatives at high-risk coastal blackspots. “In addition, our dedicated community awareness arm has directly communicated with, and educated, tens of thousands of people about how to stay safe in and around the water. “However, despite our best efforts, it’s clear that people are continuing to put their own lives at risk by entering the surf at night or outside of the flags and the devastating reality is, not everyone makes it back safely,” he said. Since 1 July 2018, SLSQ lifesavers and lifeguards have combined to rescue 2,759 swimmers in distress; of these, a staggering 84 per cent occurred outside of the flags. Importantly, SLSQ remains committed to reversing this trend, with Mr Beavis saying it was a key priority for the organisation moving forward.
“The challenge for us is magnified exponentially when you add thousands of international tourists and migrants into the mix, who swim at unpatrolled locations through a sheer lack of awareness or perhaps by following the lead of locals. “In many cases these people return home safely at the end of the day, but we’ve seen it go wrong on far too many occasions. “Every year we see both locals and tourists lose their lives at unpatrolled stretches of coast across Queensland, and it’s particularly heartbreaking to think how many of these could have been prevented if they had only been swimming between the flags with surf lifesavers and lifeguards nearby to assist,” he said. However, while SLSQ will continue to explore all avenues for expanding and increasing core surf safety services, Mr Beavis said there was a role for everyone to play when it comes to reducing drowning deaths across the state. “Queensland is famous for its beautiful beaches and there aren’t many organisations or community groups along the coast that don’t benefit in some way, shape, or form from our state’s close proximity to the water. For this reason, surf safety is a responsibility that falls on everyone,” he said. “Whether its tourism agencies educating their clients about patrolled beaches, councils and land managers implementing internationally-recognised safety signage, schools introducing water safety lessons, or simply parents setting a good example by always swimming between the flags; we all have a role to play when it comes to keeping each other safe, and preventing further drownings from occurring. “We’ll continue to do everything in our power to promote surf safety and protect beachgoers but, at the same time, we want to be working with key industries and groups to help get the message out. “For example, there’s no doubt that multilingual messaging on international flights arriving into Queensland, or brochures placed in all hotels within 50 kilometres of the coast, could help educate beachgoers and, ultimately, save lives.”
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
HERO LIFEGUARD SAVES FOUR
When there’s a life on the line, every second counts. No one knows that better than SLSQ senior lifeguard Michael Bates, who’s spent the past 12 years watching over and protecting beachgoers along Queensland’s coastline. Late last year he drew upon all that experience, and more, when a routine patrol at North Stradbroke Island turned into a race against time to rescue four patients before tragedy struck. It began like any other day for the veteran lifeguard but, after setting up the flags at Main Beach near Point Lookout, Michael was alerted to a serious situation unfolding at an unpatrolled area nearby.
A number of beachgoers nearby tried to help, but they too were quickly swept out and unable to make it back to shore. After assessing the situation, Michael’s years of training and experience kicked in. As the only lifeguard on patrol at his beach, he immediately radioed for backup before racing out to assist. “As I came around the corner on my jet ski I could see a bunch of people in the water, all in distress and all spread out, and that’s probably the last thing you want to see as a lifeguard on your own,” he said.
“As I was looking out from the headland I could see someone waving their arms up and down, and that obviously alerted me to the fact there something was going on,” he remembers.
“There’s only one of me, but there were four people all needing help, and that’s where you start to get challenged with your thought processes. You have to prioritise who needs help the most, who you should go to first, and who can probably keep their head above water a little longer.
“It ended up being what I really hoped it wasn’t; a few people had been sucked out along a rip that generally runs along the rocks near South Gorge, one of the neighbouring beaches.”
“With that area in particular, you’re close to a lot of rocks and with the waves breaking nearby, you get a lot of reflection and refraction so it’s a really tricky spot to do rescues.
Unbeknownst to him at the time, a 25-year-old woman had gone for a swim at an unpatrolled, unstable, and highlydangerous area of North Stradbroke Island known as South Gorge. The woman was knocked over in waist-depth water before getting sucked out in a strong rip and, suddenly, a day at the beach turned into a genuine life and death situation.
“In the distance I could see the mouth of a cave within South Gorge; there were waves crashing all around and a girl laying face down in the water, completely motionless. She was right near a little nook that I couldn’t quite get the jet ski into, and I started thinking I might have to ditch the ski and use a rescue tube to secure her,” he said.
South Gorge, North Stradbroke Island
“Looking back now, it definitely could have ended badly. We were very, very lucky and if it had been even a minute or two later, we could have easily lost a few people that day” − Michael Bates, Lifeguard After safely securing the closest patient to him, Michael turned his attention to the unresponsive female in the water. The situation unfolding was so challenging that he enlisted help from the male patient he had pulled from the water just seconds before. “The first patient was on the back of the jet ski and I remember saying ‘after this wave we’re going in to get that girl – I’ll grab hold of her, but I’ll need your help swinging her body onto the ski’ because at that stage she was completely motionless,” he said.
patients, one of whom had sustained significant cuts from nearby rocks and was already exhibiting signs of shock. The lifeguards immediately went to work treating the female patient, clearing her airways, removing water from her lungs, and providing oxygen therapy until paramedics arrived. Meanwhile a second male patient was treated for shock onsite and also transported to hospital. Thankfully, all four patients survived, but Michael said it could have easily been a different outcome.
“It was probably the most challenged I’ve ever been in 12 years of lifeguarding, just knowing I had a split moment to get there and if I missed the opportunity, she’d get dragged into that cave and it probably wouldn’t end well.
“Looking back now, it definitely could have ended badly. We were very, very lucky and if it had been even a minute or two later, we could have easily lost a few people that day,” he said.
“Thankfully we were able to grab her and get her up onto the jet ski, but you could see on her face that she was already in trouble. She had blue lips, had taken in a fair bit of water, and was unconscious,” he said.
“You face situations like that sometimes where you honestly don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but you have to back your training, back your equipment, and back the lifeguards that you’re working alongside.
By now a second lifeguard, Mitch Yates, had arrived on scene and began setting up on the beach for a potential resuscitation.
“You obviously don’t like seeing people in that situation and it’s why, for us as lifeguards, we’d rather go down the avenue of working to prevent that situation from occurring in the first place,” he said.
With Mitch taking the lead on first aid and treatment, Michael was able to return to the water and secure the remaining
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
K E Y C A M PA I G N S B O O S T SURF SAFETY
Each year millions of people flock to Queensland beaches and entrust the ‘red and yellow army’ to keep them safe in the water. On top of this, there are countless others who enter the surf at unpatrolled beaches or in dams, rivers, and creeks where there are no lifesaving services present. The challenge remains for SLSQ to develop and implement a wide range of key strategies to educate, protect, and keep all these swimmers safe in the water. As the state’s peak authority on coastal and aquatic safety, SLSQ remains more committed than ever to building upon its services at all levels in a bid to reduce drowning deaths across Queensland. However, in addition to boosting patrols and front-line services, SLSQ continues to make a concerted effort to increase beach safety through targeted communication and community education. Following an increase in drownings at unpatrolled and high-risk beaches this season, SLSQ developed and rolled out a number of strategic campaigns in recent months to encourage beachgoers to exercise safe swimming practices. The proactive communication reached an audience of millions, significantly boosting surf safety education and awareness across the country and, ultimately, supporting SLSQ’s front-line beach patrols.
Don’t let your child become another drowning statistic A confronting new video campaign was developed and rolled out by SLSQ over the peak summer holidays, following a spike in the number of young children being pulled from the surf by lifesavers and lifeguards across the state. The video portrays a mother taking her young daughter to a secluded and unpatrolled stretch of beach, before tragedy strikes. While the girl initially runs into the surf and starts playing in the waves, she quickly finds herself in trouble and struggles to keep her head above water. Her mother, distracted by a book, fails to notice and by the time she looks up, her daughter has vanished. The key messages from SLSQ are to always supervise your children, and always swim at patrolled locations between the red and yellow flags. The campaign was specifically developed after key data released by SLSQ revealed some 1,272 children aged 12 and under were pulled from the water by Queensland surf lifesavers and lifeguards over the past two years. SLSQ Acting CEO Kris Beavis said it was intended to send a hard-hitting message about the dangers and potential
In addition to boosting patrols and front-line services, SLSQ continues to make a concerted effort to increase beach safety through targeted communication and community education.
repercussions of leaving young children unsupervised at the beach. “Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for us to see young children left unsupervised, or even unattended, on Queensland beaches and it’s nothing but a recipe for disaster,” he said. “Thankfully children aren’t heavily represented in this season’s drowning data, but we’ve seen a large number of kids rescued from the surf in recent years and it’s important we’re proactively engaging with parents to encourage active supervision in and around the water. “Even if it looks calm on the surface, the ocean can be a dangerous and unpredictable place at times, and having an extra set of eyes looking out for children could make all the difference.”
Driving Beach Safety A follow-up campaign, launched ahead of Australia Day, was developed to reinforce vital surf safety messages and encourage all beachgoers to exercise care and caution in the water. Primarily focusing on a young couple’s trip to the beach, the campaign sought to draw parallels with our daily road safety choices, highlighting how a single and simple error in judgement could have fatal consequences for those involved. Mr Beavis said it highlighted the need for beach safety to be made a priority, in much the same way that road safety was considered essential.
“Whether it’s through complacency, bravado, or simple over-confidence, we’ve seen far too many people risk their lives this summer by swimming outside of the flags or at unpatrolled locations and tragically, not everyone has made it home safely,” he said. “Our message is simple; you wouldn’t drive a car without buckling your seatbelt, so why risk your life by going to the beach and not swimming between the flags? “Everyone, from children to the elderly, understands and appreciates the importance of road safety and wearing a seatbelt. We want beach safety, and the act of swimming between the red and yellow flags, to become a habit also.” Mr Beavis said the campaign featured a fit, young male whose potentially life-altering decision to swim in an unpatrolled area is juxtaposed with a scene of his partner encouraging him to swim between the flags. “Our data indicates the vast majority of drownings and fatalities on Queensland beaches this season have involved males, so the decision to focus on a male beachgoer was very much a deliberate strategy on our part,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re encouraging all beachgoers to listen to their loved ones, think about their choices, and only swim between the red and yellow flags. “As far as we’re concerned, even one drowning is one too many, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to spread the surf safety message far and wide,” he said.
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
S L S Q R E T U R N S TO F R A S E R I S L A N D TO A S S E S S S T I N G E R T H R E AT Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is continuing to take positive and proactive steps to boost public safety on Fraser Island following a number of suspected Irukandji stings recorded over the peak summer months. While there are no traditional beach patrols on the island, surf lifesavers and lifeguards became a regular sight over the holiday period, conducting daily stinger drags across December and January, and directly engaging with beachgoers about where and how to swim safely. The western side of Fraser Island has previously been identified as a particularly high-risk stretch of coastline and, importantly, the recent initiatives continue to build on SLSQ’s commitment to improving and increasing safety for all visitors. It marks the third consecutive year that lifesavers and lifeguards have had an active presence on the island during the summer holidays, and comes after 11 people were reportedly stung over a four-week period between 11 December 2018 and 10 January 2019. The daily drags, primarily focused on an area between Moon Point and Wathumba Creek, captured a total of seven specimens which were passed onto SLSQ’s marine stinger advisor Dr Jamie Seymour for analysis and further testing. At least one of the samples was subsequently identified by Dr Seymour as Carukia Barnesi from the Irukandji family, prompting SLSQ to reissue warnings about the need for beachgoers to put safety first at all times. SLSQ lifesaving services coordinator Julie Davis said the stinger drags were continuing to provide the organisation with vital information about the prevalence and location of Irukandji in the water. “There have been a number of stings on Fraser Island over the past few years, which is obviously concerning, and that prompted us to return again over summer to conduct additional drags and community engagement activities,” she said. “Most of the stings in recent years have been in the calmer waters on that western side of the island, away from the bigger surf and predominantly between Moon Point and Wathumba Creek.
“Importantly, the drags have given us a much greater understanding about the extent of stingers in the water, what specific type they are, and where they’re primarily located, and that information will be vital when it comes to developing strategies to help keep beachgoers safe moving forward.” The recent findings also prompted SLSQ to reissue and upgrade safety alerts for Fraser Island. “We’re asking all beachgoers to take extra care when swimming on the western side of the island during the summer months, which are typically when stinger numbers are at their peak,” she said. “If swimmers do enter the water, it’s important they’re wearing appropriate clothing, such as a stinger suit, and have access to vinegar.” In addition to regular stinger drags, SLSQ also rolled out a wide range of community awareness activities on Fraser Island to educate beachgoers about the presence and potential threat of Irukandji.
This saw lifesavers and lifeguards proactively engaging with beachgoers, campers, swimmers, boaters, and other visitors to provide them with information about how to stay safe in and around the water. Ms Davis said it was important to educate beachgoers about the potential dangers, particularly with no fixed patrol service operating on Fraser Island. “We’ve been doing everything we can to spread the safety message, educate beachgoers, and encourage anyone visiting Fraser Island to take extra precautions around the water, particularly on that western side,” she said.
“We’ve been doing everything we can to spread the safety message, educate beachgoers, and encourage anyone visiting Fraser Island to take extra precautions around the water.” − Julie Davis, Lifesaving Coordinator
“As part of this, our teams have been out and about, chatting to campers, pulling up alongside charter boats, talking to those travelling to the island via barge, and also handing out safety information on the mainland. “We’ve also visited information centres, hotels, motels, caravan parks, and other sites around Hervey Bay to ensure we’re leaving no stone unturned.” In total, SLSQ has directly engaged with more than 1,000 visitors to Fraser Island, significantly boosting coastal and aquatic safety in the process. “We know there are highly dangerous and potentially deadly marine stingers in the water off Fraser Island this time of year, and that’s obviously an ongoing concern for us,” Ms Davis said.
“It’s really important that we’re taking proactive steps to not only warn beachgoers about the potential dangers, but also provide them with the knowledge and awareness to make educated decisions about their own personal safety in and around the water. “There are no fixed lifesaving or lifeguard patrols on the island so, for us, the primary focus is on educating beachgoers about what they can do to protect themselves and what immediate steps they should take if they happen to get stung. “This year we directly engaged with more than 1,000 visitors to Fraser Island, and they’re all people who now know what steps they can take to mitigate the risks of getting stung by an Irukandji.” SLSQ thanks Hervey Bay Volunteer Marine Rescue for its assistance in delivering these vital services on Fraser Island.
SURF LIFE SAVING QUEENSLAND
S W A R M S O F B LU E B OT T L E S H I T QUEENSLAND BEACHES In addition to protecting huge holiday crowds, SLSQ surf lifesavers and lifeguards were also kept on their toes during the peak summer months as record swarms of marine stingers descended on Queensland beaches.
While the swarms of stingers added another dimension for surf lifesavers and lifeguards on patrol, Mr Thomson said he was really pleased with how the situation had been managed.
Sustained northerly winds, warm water temperatures, and extended heatwaves led to an extraordinary number of bluebottles in the water and, subsequently, a significant spike in the number of stings reported and treated across the state’s south east.
“Our members are already dealing with huge holiday crowds and testing conditions this time of year, and the mass influx of bluebottles obviously added another significant challenge,” he said. “But our members have done a tremendous job in terms of protecting beachgoers and managing the risks associated with bluebottles, and they should be rightly proud of their efforts over the past few months. “There were times where beaches had to be closed as a direct result of bluebottles, or where beachgoers required hospitalisation following a sting, and in each instance, our lifesavers and lifeguards managed the situation exceptionally well.” A review of data shows there were 13,288 stings recorded in December, and a further 21,611 recorded in January. By comparison, there were 15,111 stings treated by surf lifesavers and lifeguards in the entire 18 month period immediately before.
SLSQ’s surf lifesavers and lifeguards treated 34,899 bluebottle stings in December and January alone, representing a staggering 297 per cent jump when compared to the corresponding months a year earlier.
In total, SLSQ’s surf lifesavers and lifeguards treated 34,899 bluebottle stings in December and January alone, representing a staggering 297 per cent jump when compared to the corresponding months a year earlier.
Even with the huge number of stings recorded, Mr Thomson said it could have been much worse were it not for the vigilance of surf lifesavers and lifeguards on patrol.
SLSQ lifesaving services coordinator Jacob Thomson said the number of stings was unprecedented.
“We focus a lot on preventative actions, and particularly in terms of identifying any potential dangers as early as possible and taking the necessary actions to stop that situation from escalating further,” he said.
“The sheer volume of stings that were recorded and treated over the past few months is something we’ve genuinely never seen or experienced before as an organisation,” he said. “There’s normally an influx of bluebottles in the water this time of year, particularly with the warmer weather, but certainly not to the extent we’ve seen in recent months.”
“Importantly, our surf lifesavers and lifeguards have been extremely proactive over the past few months, getting in and around the water’s edge to warn, educate, and advise beachgoers about the potential dangers associated with bluebottles in the water.”
N E W T E C H N O LO G Y T R I A L L E D IN QUEENSLAND SLSQ is continuing to embrace new and innovative ways to help save lives and reduce drowning deaths on Queensland beaches. Over the past few months surf lifesavers and lifeguards have been trialling world-first technology, called Life-Fi, at selected locations up and down the coast. Life-Fi provides beachgoers with free and unlimited wi-fi between the red and yellow flags, capable of pushing out real-time surf safety alerts in up to seven different languages. In addition to encouraging beachgoers to swim only at patrolled areas, the technology will also play a key role when it comes to breaking down the communication barriers between surf lifesavers and international tourists. The new technology has already been trialled at Mooloolaba Beach on the Sunshine Coast, Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, Green Island in North Queensland, and will soon be rolled out to a number of other key locations across the state.
It is the generous involvement of our partners that enables us to continue to keep our beaches safe. Surf Life Saving Queensland would like to thank these organisations for their ongoing support.
TODAYâ€™S BEST MUSIC
You wouldn’t drive without a seatbelt, so why wouldn’t you ALWAYS SWIM BETWEEN THE FLAGS?
DON’T BECOME ANOTHER
DROWNING STATISTIC The flags represent a safer place to swim than unpatrolled locations. Find your nearest patrolled location: DRIVINGBEACHSAFETY.COM
In partnership to keep our beaches safer
As the state’s peak authority on coastal and aquatic safety, Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) continues to focus on delivering innovative...
Published on Mar 4, 2019
As the state’s peak authority on coastal and aquatic safety, Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) continues to focus on delivering innovative...