Episode 1 - Summer Survival

Are you ready for Summer?

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Show notes

Summer tips from RACQ Living including the dangers of accidentally locking your child or pet in the car,  how to handle summer storms, skin cancer in Queensland's hot climate and much more.


  • Luke Bradnam, Triple M Radio Presenter
  • Steve Spalding, RACQ Head of Technical and Safety Policy
  • Kirsty Clinton, RACQ Principal Media Advisor Financial Services
  • Adam Ashmore, RACQ Manager Roadside Assistance Operations


Welcome to the RACQ Living podcast with your host Luke Bradnam.

Luke Bradnam: G’day, I'm Luke Bradnam from Triple M's Drive Show and Channel Nine News Queensland. Welcome to RACQ Living podcast, designed to keep you safe and informed over the Summer months.

Luke Bradnam: I don't know about you, but there's no place I'd rather be over the holiday period than right here in Queensland. It's home to some of the best weather that Australia has to offer with our sunny days and awesome beaches and those great ocean breezes. It's all part of why Queensland is the holiday destination for families and tourists alike. Here at RACQ Living, we want to remind you about how to keep the whole family safe this Summer. That's why we put together a range of topics that go hand-and-hand to help protect yourself and your kids.

Luke Bradnam: Every day, we're told never to leave infants, children or pets in parked cars, even if the windows are slightly down, yet according to RACQ's Steve Spalding, the number of RACQ rescues each year is just staggering.

Steve Spalding: We've found that during testing, a vehicle can heat from say, ambient temperature to around 40 degrees in as little as seven to eight minutes. It's that 40 degree point that the medical experts would tell you there is a real safety risk.

Luke Bradnam: You'll hear his story shortly.

Luke Bradnam: Are you prepared for this year's storm season?

Kirsty Clinton: The Summer of 2016-2017 was unfortunately really devastating in Queensland. End of March and April when Cyclone Debbie hit, we really copped it here in Queensland.

Luke Bradnam: As a weatherman, I know firsthand just how wild our weather can get, but there are some things you can do to prepare for anything that mother nature throws at us. Some helpful advice from RACQ coming up, plus the story of one man's extraordinary battle with melanoma.

Zach Marsh: I didn't know a great deal about it so I asked the doctor what's the lowest level, what's the highest level. He said stage five is the highest. Three is not the best.

Luke Bradnam: It's the news that no one wants to hear. Zach Marsh shares his story of being diagnosed with stage three melanoma at just 25 years of age and his message for all Queenslanders this Summer.

Luke Bradnam: But first, we've all heard the story. Mum is driving home with the kids in the back seat and she decides to duck into the shops to pick up some last minute items for dinner, leaving the child all alone in the car with the doors locked. According to RACQ, temperatures can take just a few minutes to rise from air conditioned levels to 40 degrees, leading to death or serious injury for the occupants.

Luke Bradnam: Here's RACQ tech and safety expert, Steve Spalding.

Steve Spalding: I think many people would be surprised at just how hot a car can get when it's left in the sun. We've seen during temperature testing that temperatures in the cabin can be as high as 75 degrees, which is a temperature beyond which any of us could survive.

Steve Spalding: Some of the myths and I think many people would have heard these over the years is, if it's a light car, it will somehow heat up less than a dark car or tinted windows or windows that are left slightly open, should I park the car in the sun in the sun or in the shade. In terms of safety and cabin temperatures, it really makes very little difference. It's the standard advice that we give, and that is, if you have children in the vehicle, don't leave them unattended. Make other arrangements to take them out and keep them safe.

Luke Bradnam: How often would the RACQ be called out to rescue a child or a pet?

Steve Spalding: I think many motorists would be surprised at just how often we go out to rescue a child in a car. On average, it would be around three to four times every single day. Some days are worse than others where we will go to many child rescues. Other days, less so, but it is something that continually reoccurs and we find that it is a very stressful situation, not just for the child inside the car or the parents, but also the RACQ patrol operators that have to get this child out safely. In most cases, it is the parent or the driver that makes that call. They realise very quickly that the vehicle locking system has prevented them from getting back into the vehicle and they can see the distressed child and of course, they then panic, so they ring us. That is always the best advice, and that is to act quickly, stay calm, think clearly, call RACQ first. If you have any concerns at all about the safety of the child, ring emergency services. A vehicle can be accessed reasonably quickly if we can get to the vehicle and we can use the right technique to try and enter it.

Steve Spalding: I think the best way to prevent this situation is firstly, always keep the keys with you as the driver or the parent. Never give them to the child to play and never become absent-minded and leave them on the seat or in the boot or something like that. If you're on you as a person, then there's no risk as such of the car locking itself.

Luke Bradnam: Some good advice there.

Luke Bradnam: Adam Ashmore knows all too well what it's like to rescue a child or a pet from a locked car. He's the manager of RACQ's Roadside Assistance and he says it's a traumatic situation for everyone involved.

Adam Ashmore: A lot of the time, the parents of the child, of the baby, perhaps a baby, it's a hot day, the baby is a little bit fractious, the parent gives key to the child to keep it quiet, start jingling the keys, give the keys to the child, shuts the door, is about to get into the front of the car or put the shopping in the boot and the baby or the child presses the button and locks themselves in the car. That's how we see it happening.

Luke Bradnam: Walk us through the scenario. You get a call or your team gets a call, what happens from there?

Adam Ashmore: Call would come through to the contact centre. Then, the contact centre allocates two patrols. Say it's a hot day and the vehicle is out in the sun. There can be a number of bystanders. The parent can be quite distressed and in some cases, walking around the vehicle quite distressed. That can make the child inside then become distressed and the situation escalates.

Adam Ashmore: When the patrol arrives, he's not only got to deal with the mechanics of unlocking the vehicle. He's got the added tension of bystanders and the parent that are in a heightened state of anxious. When you get there, your heart does a race a little and you're aware that all eyes are on you to unlock the vehicle quickly. There is no time to be lost and that's why, when emergency services are called, particularly if it's a vehicle that's known to be difficult to unlock and I've, in previous roles, I've been on the technical support end of the phone call and you could get a vehicle that has a known issue with unlocking it. It could be a European vehicle that's deadlocked. You'd basically really need the keys to unlock that vehicle quickly. It can be a case of we'll just get emergency services. If the vehicle is in the sun, send emergency services to break the window.

Luke Bradnam: It is okay to leave the windows down a fraction?

Adam Ashmore: It will relieve some of the heat, but again, these cars, people generally don't leave the windows down because they drive with air conditioning. The door is open, the child goes in, the keys are with the child, lock. Glass is particularly hard to break. You'd think it would smash quite easily. You see rocks and house bricks and they'll actually bounce off a side glass, which will, if it's hit in the correct way and we have something, we have a life hammer or a little device called a "rescue me" and we can, which is a very sharp steel pinpoint that's spring-loaded and will break a window quite easily, but if you've got bits of stones and bricks picked up from the side of the road, it's quite hard to break a window, believe it or not. It's not that straightforward.

Adam Ashmore: If there was one piece of advice, I'd say is please don't give the keys to your children. That's the one piece of advice to stop it in the first place.

Adam Ashmore: Accidents happen and we had one recently where there was a member of the public and a child locked in a vehicle and the keys were locked in the glove box. Now you would think, how possibly could that happen, but there's a certain chain of events and that's the sort of, they're the sort of things that we find ourselves faced with. Fortunately, we were quite able to, using the patrol's ingenuity to get the member out, but the keys were locked inside the glove box. No damage to the vehicle. Everyone is happy. Everyone is safe.

Adam Ashmore: The heat inside the vehicle, it's a very real risk and it is a real danger for anyone that is locked inside the vehicle. Just be careful where you place the keys. So far this year since January, we've had 907 babies and children locked in vehicles. That's up to the end of September. It happens all the time. It happens regularly. They are just the calls that come through RACQ. It's a bigger issue than you would think. I would say, keep hold of your keys.

Adam Ashmore: With all the advances in technology to stop you from being able to lock the keys in the car, it can still happen, especially vehicles with deadlocking. Your European vehicles, a lot of vehicles have what's known as deadlocking. Even if you were to get a hold of the door handle, if the car is locked, you get a hold of the inner door handle, it still won't unlock. You have to have the key to unlock it.

Adam Ashmore: For an extreme situation, RACQ patrols attend these events. We unlock the vehicle. We rescue the child. We remove the child from danger and the relief is absolutely visible. They are overjoyed and so thankful for our help. It's extremely stressful, but it's extremely rewarding in those circumstances when you get that instant "thank you" from the parent.

Luke Bradnam: Geez. That is a parent's worst nightmare, isn't it? But, it is nice to know that support is just a phone call away. Don't be fooled, even when parked in the shade, temperatures can exceed 40 degrees.

Luke Bradnam: Whilst, Queensland experienced one of the warmest and driest winters on record in 2017. Summer paints a very different picture with positive signs of good rainfall and at least two or three tropical cyclones off the Queensland east coast. Every year, storm season in Queensland leaves its mark from falling trees around the home to hail damage and flood waters affecting our vehicles.

Luke Bradnam: Kirsty Clinton from RACQ has some good advice to help protect your precious belongings.

Kirsty Clinton: Around the home, we need people to think of things like checking their roof, make sure there's no leaky tiles, clean out your gutters, anything that could cause excess water to overflow into the roof cavity. Also look at your gardens. Clean out excess plants and dead debris, things that could knock over fences in high winds. Also, removing the outdoor furniture. Don't leave excess outdoor furniture lying around in the yard. These storms can creep up on us.

Luke Bradnam: How can we avoid hail damage to our car, I guess apart from the obvious, which is park under cover?

Kirsty Clinton: When we say "parking under cover" as well, remember, don't park under a tree. Hail, a storm, trees can come down and you can end up causing a lot more damage to your car than just from the hail.

Kirsty Clinton: If you do, are forced to park outside, try and find a blanket, something quite thick that you could throw over the car. It might not entirely prevent hail damage, but it will definitely lessen the dent that the hail causes into the car.

Kirsty Clinton: The windscreen is actually easier to replace than the other bits of your car. If you have a blanket that doesn't cover your whole vehicle, try and cover your roof and your bonnet, those big sections of the vehicle that can get dents that are quite hard to get out.

Luke Bradnam: Kirsty, we're often reminded to prepare and have an emergency plan and an emergency kit. What should they contain?

Kirsty Clinton: If we look at an emergency plan, it only takes five minutes. Sit down with your family and your loved ones and talk about where you will go and what you will do when a storm hits. It's not as simple as saying, "Hey, let's all meet at mum's." You need to think about how you'll get there, who will pick up the kids from school, who will duck home and grab the pets and think about are there any roads between your house and mum's that often flood and how will you get around there.

Kirsty Clinton: When you look at your emergency kit, this is something that you should have prepared before storm season. Put it somewhere where you'll remember where it is and have easy access to it. In that emergency kit, include things like a torch and spare batteries, a battery-powered radio, enough food and water to last you a few days, have some spare clothes and any essentials that you use on a daily basis like prescription medication. Also, think about kids and pets and anything they might need, formula, nappies, dog food, that sort of thing.

Kirsty Clinton: Treat the start of storm season as a good time in the calendar to just check your policy, make sure you're covered. Check the amount you're covered for and what has changed since you last looked at this.

Kirsty Clinton: Maybe you've done some renovations and your home value has actually increased. Maybe you've bought a fancy new TV or you've become engaged and you have a new ring that you haven't listed yet. Make sure your policy includes flood cover.

Luke Bradnam: Kirsty Clinton with some important information. Remember, if it's flooded, forget it.

Luke Bradnam: I'm Luke Bradnam.

Luke Bradnam: Melanoma is a familiar word to most Australians, but it's only when melanoma directly impacts our lives that we begin to understand the seriousness of this type of skin cancer. It comes as no surprise that more people in Queensland develop and die from melanoma than anywhere else in Australia. Our climate and demographics make us uniquely vulnerable to skin cancer.

Luke Bradnam: Here's Carol Renouf from the Melanoma Institute of Australia.

Carol Renouf: Melanoma is one type of skin cancer. It's not the only type, but it's the type that you really do want to be concerned about in the sense that it only represents about 2% of all skin cancers, but it causes 75% of skin cancer deaths. Primarily, they are melanomas of the skin, which are caused by overexposure to UV radiation.

Carol Renouf: It's really only been since the 80s that we've very gradually started to recognise that the sun is a carcinogenic like tobacco or a number of other substances.

Carol Renouf: The major risk factors to be aware of in terms of melanoma are as follows: Firstly, if you have that fair Celtic colouring of skin and hair, which of course, many Australians from the original waves of migration do; Secondly, if you have anyone in your family that's had melanoma, so if you have a family history; Thirdly, if you have a lot of moles or freckles. Those are the main things that will increase your risk, but in fact, the latest research shows that it is not just cumulative UV exposure to, exposure to UV radiation that's the issue, but rather intense intermittent exposure leading to sunburn and particularly before puberty. That is the main thing that increases your risk of melanoma.

Carol Renouf: Go and get an initial skin check from a GP or a dermatologist preferably. On the basis of that and what they do or don't find on your skin during that initial check, they should recommend to you the appropriate frequency. There is no "one size fits all".

Carol Renouf: Essentially, you want to be looking for any change. It could be things like, with a mole or with an existing mole or freckle, any change to the border, any kind of asymmetry that's developed, a change in size, a change in colour, if it starts to get itchy or to bleed, but I must also stress that sometimes people present with no sign on the skin, so no mole or freckle. In those cases, sometimes they found a lump under the skin, in the groin or in the armpit or something like that. Any kind of change on top of the skin, if you like or under the skin.

Carol Renouf: It remains very important just to attend to the basics of sun safety, using a sunscreen, SPF50, applying every couple of hours, applying in fact, before you go out into the sun, about 20 minutes before, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, baseball caps won't do, covering up, staying out of the hottest hours of the day. Those things can actually prevent melanoma and melanoma is preventable.

Luke Bradnam: That's Carol Renouf from the Melanoma Institute of Australia.

Luke Bradnam: If you've been diagnosed with melanoma or have a family member or friend who is affected by cancer, there are times when you're going to need support. For 25 year old Zach Marsh, things were looking good. Had a great job, good friends, a loving family, but he'll never forget the day his life changed forever.

Zach Marsh: In November, December last year, I had a round of golf with dad. Everything went normal. Finished the golf and the next day I had a lump on my neck about the size of a golf ball. I thought it was just muscular. Thought I pulled a muscle. It didn't go away for a few days. Went to the doctors. Got them to check it out and they thought it was quite strange as well so I did a series of tests. Did a biopsy and they had traces of melanoma in it. Obviously, had to do more tests, more tests. Each test that came back was more and more information and a lot worse each time. Ended up getting referred to a specialist at Greenslopes Hospital. Based on the information he had, he found there was a stage three melanoma that got into my lymph node system and they had to take action from there.

Zach Marsh: They ended up doing a full neck dissection, clearing all the lymph nodes on the right-hand side of my neck. I was in hospital for about a week right over Christmas time too.
Luke Bradnam: How long did you have the lump?

Zach Marsh: It was probably there for three or four days.

Luke Bradnam: It came up very quickly.

Zach Marsh: Yeah, it came up two days after playing golf. I didn't know a great deal about it, so I asked the doctor what's the lowest level, what's the highest level. He said stage five is the highest, so three is not the best. He said, "But, everything is okay. We just need to act sooner rather than later."

Zach Marsh: It was a bit of a wakeup call and bit of a scare, shock to the system, but I had confidence in him and trusted in what he did and what he aid and just went with it. Yeah. Just make the most of things.

Luke Bradnam: What about support from your family and loved ones? How important was that?

Zach Marsh: Honestly, that was what got me through it all because my whole family were there every step of the way and close group of friends or even distant friends I haven't spoken to for years and years all rang me up and huge support. Just a simple phone call was all it took sometimes, but ...

Luke Bradnam: How did it change them in any way?

Zach Marsh: Again, there's a shock to their system, because being the same age as me, they're all young people, my age, shouldn't happen. That's what everybody thinks, but it does happen.

Luke Bradnam: Did it encourage them to get tested or to go and see a GP just to see if they're okay?

Zach Marsh: Yeah. Yeah.

Zach Marsh: I'd say nearly all of my close friends have now gone to their doctor, got a skin check and they're a lot smarter, you could say, in the sun, wearing sunscreen, long sleeve shirts, hats, because yeah, they saw everything I went through and yeah, they don't want that to happen to them because people can see my scar. It's all the way from my neck, my ear, sorry, down to my collarbone and halfway along my neck. It's quite big. They ask me about it and I say, tell them the story and I said basically, you've got to get your skin checked at least once a year and make sure you have private health because I didn't have private health 12 months ago.

Luke Bradnam: How has it changed you?

Zach Marsh: I notice every minute of the day because it's still stiff. I don't have as much movement at the moment. I'm working on that, but I know it's there every second of the day, so it's just in the back of your head. See other people, say, "put a hat on", or "put your sunscreen on". I'm trying to help as many people as I can.

Luke Bradnam: Just spreading small messages like, "Hey, put a hat on."

Zach Marsh: Yeah. Something as simple as that. "Just put your hat on mate. Get out of the sun."

Luke Bradnam: Melanoma survivor Zack Marsh there offering support and advice for others.

Luke Bradnam: If you'd like more information on any of the stories heard in this episode of RACQ Living, email us at roadahead@racq.com.au.

Luke Bradnam: I'm Luke Bradnam. Stay safe this Summer and thanks for listening.