Flying flag for safety

KIAMA'S lifeguards have been commended after a particularly busy summer on the council's beaches but a supervising lifeguard said too many people were still swimming outside the flags.

A report to this month's council meeting provided statistics for the beach lifeguard service from the start of the season until January 27. The peak lifeguard season ended after the Australia Day weekend.

According to statistics to date contained in the report, across the council's seven beaches there was a total attendance of 295,471, with 97 rescues, 181 first aids, 3503 preventative actions for swimmers and 1296 preventative actions for crafts.

These statistics did not include weekends and public holidays on Surf, Werri and Jones beaches, which were patrolled on those days by volunteer surf lifesavers.

"While the seas were generally calm, there were some reasonable swells during the season which contributed to the higher number of rescues (97) than in previous seasons," the report said.

"During the season, the lifeguards liaised and worked with the other emergency services during major incidents including two major spinal injuries."

Supervising beach lifeguard Andy Mole praised the Kiama lifeguards' efforts.

"This was due to a lot of beaches having pretty unstable conditions, which made it hard work for the lifeguards," he said.

"On New Year's Eve alone, 12 rescues were performed at Surf Beach and 10 at Werri Beach.

"Before the main season's end, the statistics were stacking up and we knew it was coming close to being one of our busiest seasons.

"Although a rescue gives us an exciting rush of adrenalin, it's not something we like to have happen.

"Each and every one of our 25 lifeguards would prefer that every swimmer entering our beaches, and entering on our watch, stays safe."

Mr Mole said educating the public on matters such as swimming on a patrolled beach between the flagged areas was crucial.

"A lot of rescues were performed outside the flagged areas," he said.

"The best way to stay safe is to swim between the red and yellow flags, don't swim alone, and know your own capabilities while swimming and surfing in the ocean."

Mr Mole said an ambulance had to be called to four incidents.

"[This included] two spinal incidents and an incident at Black Beach with a spear fisherman," he said.

With the summer school holidays over, beach patrol hours in the municipality have changed.

Kiama's Professional Ocean Lifeguards will patrol Surf Beach only, until Anzac Day.

Council lifeguards will patrol Surf Beach from 9am-5pm on Monday to Friday until April 4, and then Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm until April 24.

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