LSV’s Aquatic Risk and Research team has been working on a project to reduce the drowning toll at Eastern Beach in Geelong.
The Geelong Statistical Area has been identified as a drowning blackspot with 31 drowning deaths over a 10 year period from 2004 – 2014. In addition, there have been more than 380 rescues at Eastern Beach over a six year period.
The Eastern Beach Blackspot Project, which is funded by Surf Life Saving Australia, has been developed to address drowning and other water related injuries by educating the community about the risks of open water and the importance of supervision.
One measure has been a pilot pop-up mobile education program which operated during the summer school holiday period.
LSV Risk & Research Project Coordinator Rhiannon Birch said trials have included both roving education resources and structured activity stations.
“The idea is to engage and educate visitors on key water safety messages,’’ Ms Birch said.
“It’s important everyone has an increased awareness and understanding of how to stay safe in, on and around the water, including providing adequate supervision of children, the importance of reading safety signs, and understanding rip currents, lifejackets and the dangers of combining alcohol and aquatic activity.” .’’
Another major component of the project was to provide additional lifeguards during school holiday periods.
“We asked the lifeguards to have relaxed conversations with beach visitors on water safety, particularly with people in the 0-14 years age group and people considered high risk takers,’’ Ms Birch said.
“In the short term, we hope to see an increased community understanding of risks associated with coastal waterways and the need for skills and preparedness to supervise others around water.’’
The project is currently being evaluated but so far it has been well received with positive responses from lifeguards and the general public.