FLAGS DOWN: Beaches move to surveillance patrols
SURF Life Saving Queensland have been forced to make an unprecedented decision to ditch the swim between the flags message in the interest of public safety.
In consultation with local councils, Surf Life Saving Queensland will move all volunteer beach patrols and lifeguard services to surveillance patrols from Saturday, March 28.
SLS has assured lifesavers and lifeguards will still be on beaches ready to respond, however to avoid people congregating in proximity there will be no red and yellow flagged designated swimming areas.
Director of junior life saving activities at Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club, Kirk Jarrott, while the decision was a complete 180 on the usual safety message he was warning all beachgoers to remain vigilant.
"The flags are symbolic of a safe place to swim," Mr Jarrott said.
"If you are not going to have the flags up you need more professional lifeguards to ensure everyone else is safe."
"Anyone going for a swim should get advice from lifeguards and lifesavers and swim at waste depth."
Mr Jarrott said beaches such a Noosa, Kings Beach and Mooloolaba would be the safest places to swim and urged beachgoers to avoid open beaches.
"These surveillance patrol will still have designated areas and people can still communicate with lifeguards and lifesavers.
He said keeping this "essential service" operating allowed lifesavers to continue their work beyond the water and to surrounding beach areas.
"Lifeguards and lifesavers are often the first responders to something that might happen on the beach or nearby street."
SLSQ General Manager of Life Saving Kaitlyn Akers said they are committed to zero preventable deaths in Queensland waters, and the safety of Queenslanders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Surf lifesavers and lifeguards will continue to be actively advising beachgoers of warnings and performing preventive actions, to ensure beachgoers safety," Ms Akers said.
"We ask members of the public reconsider their need to visit our beaches and avoid swimming for their own safety."
Rescue equipment will remain on the beach ready to perform rescues and respond to incidents if required.
All operation support services continue to operate and emergency response groups will remain on standby to respond to any major incidents.
SLSQ will continue to work with the Queensland Government, local councils and health authorities during this time, and will provide updates as the situation continues to develop.