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Feasibility study of a water safety data collection for beaches

      Summary

      This study examined the feasibility of a methodology for collecting information on water safety on beaches. Previous work showed that lifeguards and lifesavers were unreliable data collectors as they often did not have time to devote to it. The aim of this study was to trial a data collection using dedicated data collectors. The results showed the water safety-related items that could be consistently reported, and those items that were not. Items relating to beach conditions that could be reported were: wave type, tide times, sea conditions, rips and weather and wind conditions. Items associated with rescues that could be reported were: sex, age group, activity before rescue, who performed the rescue, water depth, safety flag location, nearest rescue and rescue equipment. Data collectors could collect some data on an hourly basis especially: exact or best estimates of beach attendance, exact or best estimates of major rescues and rescues, wind direction and first aid used. Some items could not be collected consistently and their inclusion in data collections should be reviewed. These include: exact age, suburb, indigenous status and swimming ability. While the validity of the collected information was not able to be established, the feasibility study showed which items could be practically included in a water safety data collection, but that dedicated data collectors may be needed to maintain a safety data collection on busy or dangerous beaches. This approach together with data collection by water safety professionals at less busy times would be cost-effective.

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