New year’s heatwave leaves water safety authorities on high alert

Life Saving Victoria, Victoria Police and the Bureau of Meteorology are urging Victorians to play it safe by the water this weekend, with a forecasted heatwave coinciding with new year’s celebrations and creating the perfect storm for water safety.

With highs of 38-40 degrees predicted in parts of the state, water safety authorities are on high alert, expecting an influx of revelers celebrating in and around water.

This has led authorities to warn Victorians against letting the excitement of celebrations get in the way of safe decision making in, on and around the water this long weekend.

In particular, authorities are urging people to avoid alcohol and drugs around water, after these substances were found to be a known factor in 31 per cent of Victorian drowning deaths during the past decade. To help curb this, water police are testing for drugs as well as alcohol at boat ramps in key locations this summer.

Adding to water safety concerns, coastal drownings are 2.3 times more likely to occur on a public holiday and 2.4 times more likely on a long weekend, so if you’re planning to recreate or relax by the water this weekend, make sure you never relax your vigilance.

Despite the risks, there are some simple steps you can take to prepare, be aware and be safe around water this New Year’s Eve.

This includes knowing and sticking to your limits, actively supervising children by keeping kids under five within arm’s reach and under tens in your constant and direct eyeline, and of course, swimming between the red and yellow flags at a patrolled location wherever possible.

If you plan on boating or fishing,

 make sure you wear a correctly fitted and well-maintained lifejacket, as 79 per cent of boating-related drowning incidents during the past decade involved either no or improper lifejacket use. A lifejacket can keep you afloat if needed until help arrives.

Lifesavers and lifeguards will be patrolling between t

he red and yellow flags at more than 60 locations across Victoria this New Year’s long weekend. To find a patrolled location near you, head to beachsafe.org.au.

Torquay beach with red and yellow flags on hot summer day

Victoria Police’s Water Police Squad will also be out actively patrolling coastal and inland waterways to ensure boaters and jet ski riders are doing the right thing.

“Make this New Year one to remember for the right reasons. Don’t let festivities turn into fatalities,” said Life Saving Victoria state agency commander Kane Treloar.

“While the New Year is typically time for celebration, remember alcohol and water do not mix. If you’re planning on drinking this new year, only do so after you have left the water.”

“With more than 60 patrolled locations in Victoria, there is bound to be one near you and one to match your swimming ability, so if you’re going to enjoy our waterways, please head to one of these locations – it could save your life.”

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