NSW's volunteer surf lifesavers returned to the beach on Saturday for the first patrol of the season.
"With a near-record 49 drownings in NSW last year and seven coastal fatalities since 1 July this year, the state's surf lifesavers are on high alert," Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said.
The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting record spring temperatures leading into summer and with a huge influx of tourism to local beaches expected due to COVID-19 overseas travel restrictions, surf lifesavers have been preparing for what is expected to be one of the biggest seasons on record.
"The NSW government is asking all beachgoers to keep a beach towel length between each other when enjoying the beach this summer," Mr Elliott said.
The 2020/21 season brings a number of new challenges for lifesavers brought about by COVID-19, however clubs are prepped and ready with additional measures including PPE and modified Standard Operating Procedures to protect their members, enabling them to continue to provide frontline beach safety services safely.
While volunteer lifesavers will not be enforcing social distancing, Surf Life Saving will be assisting authorities by providing information on overall beach attendance and coordinating beach closures if required.
Technology will play a big part in keeping people and beaches safe this summer with a number of initiatives aimed at supporting both lifesaving operations and the community including:
- Beachsafe.org.au has real-time information on patrolled beach status including closures due to over-crowding or hazardous conditions.
- New high-tech State Operations Centre (SOC) has greater capability to monitor and coordinate major incidents.
- Two major UAV programs at over 50 NSW beaches to assist with shark surveillance and beach patrols.
- The Surf Emergency Response System provides out-of-hours callout capability which mobilises assets to respond to emergencies or incidents along the coast and results in hundreds of lives saved each year.
Surf Life Saving NSW is asking the public to be patient and cooperate to stay safe at the beach this season.
"Please don't take unnecessary risks that could put your life and those you love in danger as well as put unnecessary strain on our volunteers," Surf Life Saving NSW president George Shales said.
"We are prepared but we need the cooperation of everyone to keep our beaches open and safe for everyone to enjoy."
The patrol season runs to April 25, 2021.