The 1638 preventative actions on the South Coast highlight the important role played by South Coast's NSW Surf Life Saving volunteers.
Surf Lifesaving NSW recently released its figures for the 2019/20 patrol season and without the efforts of South Coast volunteers, 1638 recorded preventative actions could have been tragically different.
Sadly three deaths were recorded during the season on the South Coast, along with 70 rescues and 270 first aid responses.
Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales said that volunteers throughout the state had worked tirelessly during the season which was evidenced by the increase in preventative actions compared with last season.
"Clearly our vigilance is paying off and there were a number of life saving rescues, including resuscitations, that ended positively," he said.
"We're proud of our volunteers who respond so professionally to these incidents - many of them outside volunteer patrol hours."
Mr Shales said of particular note this season is the way Surf Life Saving NSW embraced its new role as an emergency service.
Volunteer surf lifesavers responded this time out of the water, during the NSW bushfire crisis in January, sheltering over 10,000 people as the bushfires descended on Bermagui, Broulee and Batemans Bay.
Furthermore, surf clubs and volunteer surf lifesavers pulled out all stops to support communities in the aftermath of the bushfires, support which continues now.
Many surf clubs became important hubs for the distribution of food and clothing to members of the community who had lost everything, which exemplifies the organisation's vision of surf clubs being not just surf lifesaving clubs but community hubs.
More details on "unprecedented" patrol season
The 2019/20 Surf Life Saving patrol season was unprecedented in many ways.
It will be remembered for the way volunteer surf lifesavers worked alongside other emergency service personnel in response to both the NSW bushfire crisis and the widespread beach closures, caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, which ended the patrol season four weeks early.
Tragically, the 2019/20 patrol season will also be remembered for a higher than the average number of coastal drownings.
Although the NSW bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic reduced overall beach attendance during the 2019/20 season by 21 per cent, more than 20,000 surf lifesavers across NSW performed 2,499 rescues, 6,023 first-aid treatments and 192,471 preventative actions - an impressive 20 per cent increase on the five-year average.
This was achieved despite there being fewer patrol days during the season.
Tragically, the increase in preventative actions at patrolled locations did not reduce the total number of drownings on the NSW coastline - outside patrolled areas.
With 42 coastal drownings, the 2019/20 figures are above the 10-year average of 40 fatalities.
Sadly, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the summer bushfires on reducing beach attendance has had little or no impact on reducing the number of deaths on the NSW coastline.
Unusually, boating-related coastal drownings were the most common this season.
There were more than double the number of boating-related coastal drownings when compared to the 10-year average.
The 27 per cent of NSW coastal drownings relate to boating activities.
Swimming-related drownings were the second most common after boating fatalities.
However, they were down this season by 10 per cent compared to the 10-year average.
Historically, swimming has been the activity that leads to most coastal drownings, so the reduction is good news for surf lifesavers who target swimmers as a key demographic in coastal safety messaging.
Emergency support operations were increased during the COVID-19 lockdown and call-out teams across NSW have been kept busy despite the patrol season concluding and the widespread beach closures.
There was no reduction in the number of call-outs during the 2019/20 season - despite the reduction in beach attendance.
There were approximately 600 emergency call-outs which demonstrate that the number of support operations responses is not directly linked to beach attendance figures.
Rather, activities like boating and rock-fishing in less populated areas are the activities that lead to the most requests for emergency assistance.