Flags down on Victoria’s longest, busiest patrol season

After five months, Victoria’s 57 life saving clubs have taken down the red and yellow flags for the last time in 2020-21, marking the end of the state’s longest and busiest lifesaving season to date.

The extended season, which was made possible by a $1.7 million funding boost from the Victorian Government, saw Victorian lifesavers undertake 232,000 preventative actions, 602 rescues, and 150 missions and 15 helicopter winches using the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter across the Victorian coast.

This was all managed through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, which required complex preparations to maintain LSV’s service levels, while adhering to restrictions to keep volunteers, staff and the community safe.

Tragically, this year has also seen one of Victoria’s worst drowning tolls on record, with 52 fatal drownings recorded between 1 July 2020 and 22 April 2021.

According to LSV General Manager Lifesaving Services Liam Krige, each of these drownings occurred outside of patrol times and locations, proving the effectiveness of lifesaving patrols and our dedicated personnel.

“A huge thanks goes to all of our dedicated volunteers, staff and partners who gave up their time and energy to keep people safe on our beaches this summer, your contributions have not gone unnoticed,” Mr Krige said.

“We know people aren’t travelling overseas and are spending more time in Victorian waterways, which means we need to be dynamic in the way and times we supply lifesaving patrols.

“We’re currently working with Government to ensure we’re able to continue to meet this changing demand and help keep Victorians safe through an extended lifesaving operations model moving forward.”

As summer winds down and conditions begin changing and becoming more varied, Mr Krige is encouraging people to head to their local public swimming pool during winter to strengthen water safety skills and improve water confidence before next summer.

“With patrols now finished across the state, we want to remind people that the risk isn’t over just because summer is,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we typically experience year-round drownings in Victoria, with 62 per cent of fatalities occurring outside of summer months.

“Half of all fatal drownings in Victoria over the past decade were a result of unintentional entry into the water, so even if you don’t plan on swimming, if you’re near water, you need to take steps to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe.”

Mr Krige also encouraged families to re-enrol in swimming lessons during the off season, urging “the time to prepare for next summer, is now.”

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