2009 – National Coastal Safety Report - Surf Life Saving Australia

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2009 – National Coastal Safety Report - Surf Life Saving Australia

2009

National Coastal

Safety Report

Preventing coastal

drownings in Australia

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 1


2009 National Coastal Safety Report

Table of Contents

Why do people drown?. ..................................... 2

Preventing coastal drowning deaths in Australia .............. 4

Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09: National Overview ..... 5

New South Wales. ........................................ 8

Queensland. ............................................. 10

South Australia .......................................... 12

Victoria .................................................. 14

Western Australia ........................................ 16

Tasmania ................................................ 18

Northern Territory ........................................ 19

Lifesaving activity around the coast in 2008-09 ............ 20

How can we reduce coastal drowning deaths? ............ 21

Preventing drowning – new initiatives ...................... 22

Thanks to ................................................. 23

Index and glossary of terms ............................... 23

Why do people drown?

Death by accidental drowning is usually due to a sequence of four

factors known as the ‘drowning chain’. Any of these factors alone,

or in combination with others, could lead to death by drowning.

Table 1: The drowning chain and prevention strategies

Drowning chain

Lack of knowledge, disregard or

misjudgment of a hazard

Uninformed, unprotected or unrestricted

access to a hazard

Lack of supervision or surveillance

at a hazard

Provision of supervision

Source: International Life Saving Federation: www.ilsf.org

Drowning prevention strategies

Education and information

Denial of access, improvement of

infrastructure and/or provision of warnings

Provision of supervision

Acquisition of survival skills

2 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


RISK ASSESSMENT

EDUCATE AND

INCREASE

INFORM

LACK OF KNOWLEDGE, DISREGARD FOR

OR MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE HAZARD

ONCE IN DIFFICULTIES

RISK ASSESSMENT

INABILITY TO COPE

PUBLIC EDUCATION AND AWARENESS

TO INCREASE KNOWLEDGE THROUGH QUALITY

TO PROMOTE THE ACQUISITION

SURVIVAL SKILLS

OF SURVIVAL SKILLS

REDUCE

DROWNING

TO PROMOTE SAFE AQUATIC

ENVIRONMENTS

TO PROVIDE QUALITY LIFESAVING

PROVIDE WARNINGS

AND DENY ACCESS

SERVICES

LIFESAVING SERVICES

UNIFORMED OR UNRESTRICTED

ACCESS TO THE HAZARD

RISK ASSESSMENT

EXTEND

RISK ASSESSMENT

OR SURVEILLANCE

LACK OF SUPERVISION

Graphical representation of the drowning chain and prevention strategies.

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 3


Preventing coastal drowning deaths 1 around Australia

The coast is our favourite playground. For more than 100 years,

Australians have flocked to it to enjoy our wonderful beaches. The

task of preventing coastal drowning deaths has been going on for

just as long. In 1907, a handful of surf life saving clubs on Sydney’s

beaches were dedicated to this. Now, there is a network of services

provided by volunteer surf lifesavers, Surf Life Saving Australia

(SLSA) or council-employed lifeguards, rescue helicopters, boats,

RWCs, cameras and radio control rooms. Together, they ensure our

beaches are among the safest in the world.

Despite this extensive coastal safety network, people still die by

drowning in unacceptable numbers. In the year 2008-09 there

were 94 2 coastal drowning deaths, seven more than the five-year

average of 87.

SLSA produces the National Coastal Safety Report to assist

evidence-based decision-making by all coastal safety service

providers. SLSA records details of coastal drowning deaths and

other serious incidents in its own central database (SurfGuard).

This data is cross-referenced with media monitoring reports,

other peak bodies and a detailed search of the National Coroners

Information System (NCIS).

the goals outlined in the Australian Water Safety Strategy 2009-

2011, including a 50% reduction in drowning deaths by the year

2020. As the Australian Water Safety Council has noted, this is an

ambitious undertaking, but one that is achievable through a strong,

collaborative and evidence-based approach. I commend this report

to you as part of that process.

Brett Williamson OAM

Chief Executive Officer

Surf Life Saving Australia

This year, for the first time, the report also includes data from many

local government-operated lifeguard services. As the land managers

of most of the coast, councils play a critical role in the provision

of safe beaches. In order to provide a more complete picture of

lifesaving activities around the country, many coastal councils have

provided detailed statistics on the number of rescues, first aid

treatments and preventative actions, and we thank them for

their contribution.

The report also provides an overview of some of the initiatives

SLSA will take to reduce coastal drowning deaths in consultation

with the many service providers during 2009-10. This, combined

with the various other programs funded by the Australian, state and

local governments, helps Australia lead the way in the provision

of effective coastal lifesaving services. Together, we work towards

1 See glossary for definitions. In line with international best practice, a distinction is made between ‘drowning’ (respiratory impairment as a result of submersion/immersion in liquid) and ‘drowning death’

(a fatality arising from the process of respiratory impairment as a result of submersion/immersion in liquid).

2 The data in this report is correct as at September 2009, however detailed data may change, pending the outcome of ongoing coronial investigations.

4 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – National Overview

Number of coastal drowning deaths

· 94 coastal drowning deaths occurred, an increase of six on the

previous year. This is higher than the five-year average of 87.

Who were they?

· Males continue to dominate the coastal drowning death figure,

representing 83 of the 94 fatalities (88%).

· The 30 to 39 year age-bracket had the highest representation

at 19 (20%). In the 2007-08 year, most coastal drowning

deaths occurred in the 20 to 29 year age-bracket.

· 20 drowning death victims (21%) were confirmed as foreign

nationals by birthplace or nationality, up from 18 (20%) in the

previous season. Four (4%) were international tourists.

· 44 (47%) coastal drowning death victims lived less than 10km

from the coastline and 34 (36%) drowned less than 10km from

their place of residence.

Where did the drowning deaths occur?

· 46 coastal drowning deaths occurred in New South Wales

(49%), 14 in Western Australia (15%), ten in Victoria (11%),

nine in South Australia (10%), seven each in Queensland and

Tasmania (7%) and one in the Northern Territory.

· 40 (43%) coastal drowning deaths occurred less than 1km from

a lifesaving service 4 . 29 (31%) occurred more than 5km from a

lifesaving service.

· 63 (67%) of coastal drowning deaths occurred at a beach

location and of these, 32 occurred close to a patrolled location 5 .

· No drowning deaths occurred between the red and

yellow flags.

What were people doing when they drowned?

· 32 (34%) of all those who died by drowning were swimming or

wading at the time.

· 12 (13%) involved fishing on rocks or at beaches.

Other deaths around the coast

· 24 non-drowning deaths occurred on the coast during 2008-09,

many involving a heart complication or accident.

· In 15 ocean drowning deaths and two ocean deaths 6 , the victim

was involved in boating, diving or snorkelling.

Shark-related incidents

· There were 20 recorded shark-related incidents in the 2008-09

year, one of which was fatal. This is consistent with the annual

average of one to two victims.

· Nine incidents resulted in some kind of injury and 13 incidents

involved a person who was surfing at the time.

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009. 4 See glossary. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid.

When did the drowning deaths occur?

· The most common time of the day for fatalities was between

3pm and 4pm, when 15 (16%) coastal drowning deaths

occurred. However, 21 (22%) occurred at night, between 6pm

and 8am.

· Sunday was the most common day for coastal drowning

fatalities with 16 (17%) drowning deaths; 63 (67%) occurred

during the week.

· Between December and March, 43 coastal drowning deaths

occurred – an average of one every three to four days.

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 5


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – National Overview – Graphs

Graph 1: Five year coastal drowning deaths – trends

100

80

60

40

20

0

2003-04* 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 5 year av.

Qld

Tas

SA

NSW

NT

National

Vic

WA

* 03-04 data adjusted following revised definition of coastal drowning death

Graph 2: Coastal drowning death rate per 100,000 head of population – trends

2008-2009

coastal drowning

deaths % ‘000*

Crude all-age

drowning rate per

100,000 p.a.

5 year

average

Qld 7 7% 4349.5 0.16 0.21

NSW 46 49% 7041.4 0.65 0.47

Vic 10 11% 5364.8 0.19 0.24

Tas 7 7% 500.3 1.40 0.85

SA 9 10% 1612 0.56 0.48

WA 14 15% 2204 0.64 0.47

NT 1 1% 221.7 0.45 0.37

Total 94 100% 21293.7 0.44 0.37

* Source: ABS, Dec 08

Graph 3: Coastal drowning death – age cluster trends

20

Graph 4: Coastal drowning deaths – by month

20

15

15

10

10

5

5

0

0- 9

10-19

20-29

2008-09

2005-06

30-39

40-49

50-59

60-69

70-79

2007-08 2006-07

2004-05

80-89

90-99

Unspecified

0

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009.

6 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – National Overview – Graphs

Graph 5: Coastal drowning deaths – distance of victim residence to coastline

Graph 6: Coastal drowning deaths – distance of victim residence to drowning locality

4.3%

11.7%

46.8%

Unknown

Less than 10km

4.3%

12.8%

36.2%

Unknown

Less than 10km

10km - 50km

10km - 50km

Greater than 50km

Greater than 50km

International tourist

International tourist

18.1%

24.5%

22.3%

Graph 7: Geographic location of coastal drowning deaths

Graph 8: Distance of drowning death location to lifesaving service

70.2%

Beach

Marina

Open ocean

Other

Rocks/cliff

30.9%

2.1%

42.6%

Unknown

Less than 1km

Between 1km & 5km

Greater than 5 km

3.2%

2.1%

Unknown

7.4%

13.8%

6.4%

24.5%

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 7


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – New South Wales

Number of coastal drowning deaths

· During 2008-09 there were 46 coastal drowning deaths in NSW,

an increase of 13 on the previous year.

· The annual total of 46 coastal drowning deaths is higher than

the state’s five year average of 37.

Who were they?

· The 30- to 39-year age-bracket had the highest representation

at 10 (22%). In the 2007-08 year, most coastal drowning deaths

occurred in the 50- to 59-year age-bracket.

· 17 drowning deaths (37%) were confirmed as foreign nationals

by birthplace or nationality, up from eight (24%) in the previous

season.

What were people doing when they drowned?

· Around the coastline, 15 (33%) of those who died by drowning

were swimming or wading at the time.

· Nine (20%) coastal drowning deaths involved fishing on rocks or

at beaches.

Other deaths around the coast

· 13 coastal deaths 9 occurred during 2008-09, some involving

heart complications and others were accidental. Two (15%) were

suspected suicides currently still being investigated.

Where did the drowning deaths occur?

· 25 (54%) coastal drowning deaths occurred less than 1km from

a lifesaving service 7 and seven (15%) occurred more than 5km

from a lifesaving service.

· 25 (54%) of coastal drowning deaths occurred at a beach

location and 18 (72%) occurred close to a patrolled location 8 .

· Six coastal drowning deaths occurred in the local government

areas of Waverley and Wollongong and four in each of the local

government areas of Coffs Harbour, Wyong and Randwick.

When did the drowning deaths occur?

· During 2008-09 the most common times of the day for fatalities

were between 10am and 11am and between 3pm and 4pm

with seven (15%) coastal drowning deaths each, while 14 (30%)

occurred between 6pm and 8am.

· Sunday was the most common day for coastal drowning

fatalities with 11 (24%) coastal drowning deaths. 28 (61%)

coastal drowning deaths occurred during the week (Monday

to Friday).

· Eight (17%) coastal drowning deaths occurred during

January, closely followed by November and February with

seven (15%) each.

· 21 (46%) occurred during summer (December to March).

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009. 7 See glossary. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid.

8 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – New South Wales – Graphs

Graph 9: Month of NSW coastal drowning deaths

Graph 10: Day of NSW coastal drowning deaths

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

12

10

8

6

4

2

0

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

0

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Graph 11: Time of NSW coastal drowning deaths

Graph 12: Activity of person prior to drowning death - NSW

8

7

6

5

30.9%

6.5%

4.3%

13.0%

4.3%

Attempting rescue

Boating (incl. fishing)

Diving/snorkeling

4

Fishing (beach & rock)

3

Other/unknown

2

Swimming/wading

1

37.5%

19.6%

Watercraft (non-powered)

0

2am - 3am

3am - 4am

4am - 5am

5am - 6am

6am - 7am

7am - 8am

8am - 9am

9am - 10am

10am - 11am

11am - Noon

Noon - 1pm

Midnight - 1am

1am - 2am

Total: 46 Unknown: 3

1pm - 2pm

2pm - 3pm

3pm - 4pm

4pm - 5pm

5pm - 6pm

6pm - 7pm

7pm - 8pm

8pm - 9pm

9pm - 10pm

10pm - 11pm

11pm - Midnight

19.6%

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 9


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – Queensland 10

Number of coastal drowning fatalities?

· During the 2008-09 year, seven coastal drowning deaths

occurred in Queensland. This is a decrease of one on the

previous year.

· The annual total of seven coastal drowning deaths is lower than

the state’s five-year average of 12.

Who were they?

· The 45- to 55-year age-bracket had the highest representation

at three (43%). In the 2007-08 year, most coastal drowning

deaths occurred in the 20- to 30-year age-bracket.

· Two people who died by drowning (29%) were confirmed as

foreign nationals by birthplace or nationality, down from five

(63%) in the previous season.

Where did the drowning deaths occur?

· Five (71%) coastal drowning deaths occurred less than 1km

from a lifesaving service 11 and one (14%) occurred more than

5km from a lifesaving service.

· Five (71%) of coastal drowning deaths occurred at a beach

location but only three occurred close to a patrolled location 12 .

· Three (43%) coastal drowning deaths occurred in the local

government area of the Gold Coast, and two in Cairns.

When did the drowning deaths occur?

· During the 2008-09 year the most fatal time of the day was

between 3pm and 4pm with four (57%) coastal drowning

deaths. No drowning deaths occurred between 6pm and 8am.

· Two drowning deaths occurred on a Monday and a Thursday

with only one drowning occurring on the weekend.

· Two (29%) drowning deaths occurred during both November

and April, but none occurred during the peak summer period

(December to March).

What were the people doing when the drowning deaths

occurred?

· Around the coastline, four (57%) of all those who died by

drowning were diving or snorkelling at the time.

Other deaths around the coast

· Five coastal deaths 13 occurred during 2008-09 both involving

boating activity.

· Eight ocean drowning deaths and two ocean deaths 14 involved

boating and also snorkelling or diving.

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009. 10 SLSA records all coastal

drowning deaths (see glossary). For the purposes of its own reporting, Surf Life Saving Queensland

focuses on ‘surf beach related drowning’ of which there were three in 2008-09. 11 See glossary. 12 Ibid.

13 Ibid. 14 Ibid.

10 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – Queensland – Graphs

Graph 13: Month of Qld coastal drowning deaths

Graph 14: Day of Qld coastal drowning deaths

2

2

1

1

0

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

0

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Graph 15: Time of Qld coastal drowning deaths

Graph 16: Activity of person prior to drowning death-Qld

4

28.6% 57.0%

Diving/snorkeling

3

Other/unknown

Swimming/wading

2

1

14.3%

0

2am - 3am

3am - 4am

4am - 5am

5am - 6am

6am - 7am

7am - 8am

8am - 9am

9am - 10am

10am - 11am

11am - Noon

Noon - 1pm

Midnight - 1am

1am - 2am

Total: 7 Unknown: 1

1pm - 2pm

2pm - 3pm

3pm - 4pm

4pm - 5pm

5pm - 6pm

6pm - 7pm

7pm - 8pm

8pm - 9pm

9pm - 10pm

10pm - 11pm

11pm - Midnight

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 11


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – South Australia

Number of coastal drowning fatalities

· There were nine coastal drowning deaths in South Australia

in 2008-09, a decrease of two on the previous year.

· The annual total of nine is in line with the state’s five year

average.

Who were they?

· The 40 to 50 year age-bracket had the highest representation

at six (67%), much more concentrated than the 2007-08 year,

which was evenly dispersed across age-brackets.

Where did the drowning deaths occur?

· Seven (78%) of the nine coastal drowning deaths occurred more

than 5km from a lifesaving service 15 and all nine of the coastal

drowning deaths occurred at a beach location but only two

(22%) occurred close to a patrolled location.

· Two coastal drowning deaths occurred in each of the local

government areas of Victor Harbour, Grant and Franklin Harbour.

When did the drowning deaths occur?

· During 2008-09, the most fatal time of the day was between

5pm and 6pm with four (44%) coastal drowning deaths, while

two (22%) occurred between 6pm and 8am.

· Three (33%) coastal drowning deaths occurred on Saturday and

five (56%) were during the week.

· Four (44%) coastal drowning deaths occurred during January

with the majority (seven, 89%) occurring during summer

(December to March).

What were the people doing when the drowning deaths

occurred?

· Around the coastline, four (44%) of those who died by drowning

were swimming or wading at the time.

Other deaths around the coast

· Four ocean drowning deaths 16 occurred during 2008-09, all

involving boating while one coastal death was also recorded.

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009. 15 See glossary. 16 Ibid.

12 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – South Australia – Graphs

Graph 17: Month of SA coastal drowning death

Graph 18: Day of SA coastal drowning death

4

3

3

2

2

1

1

0

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

0

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Graph 19: Time of SA coastal drowning death

Graph 20: Activity of person prior to drowning – SA

3

11.0% 11.0%

Boating (incl. fishing)

22.0%

Diving/snorkeling

2

Other/unknown

Swimming/wading

1

Watercraft (non-powered)

44.0% 11.0%

0

2am - 3am

3am - 4am

4am - 5am

5am - 6am

6am - 7am

7am - 8am

8am - 9am

9am - 10am

10am - 11am

11am - Noon

Noon - 1pm

Midnight - 1am

1am - 2am

Total: 10 Unknown: 0

1pm - 2pm

2pm - 3pm

3pm - 4pm

4pm - 5pm

5pm - 6pm

6pm - 7pm

7pm - 8pm

8pm - 9pm

9pm - 10pm

10pm - 11pm

11pm - Midnight

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 13


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – Victoria

Number of coastal drowning fatalities

· Ten coastal drowning deaths occurred in Victoria in 2008-09,

a decrease of eight on the previous year.

· The annual total is lower than the state’s five year average of 13.

Who were they?

· There were three (30%) coastal drowning victims in both the 20

to 29 year and 30 to 40 year age-bracket. In the previous year,

eight (44%) were in their late teens or twenties.

· At least two (20%) of the nine drowning death victims were

confirmed as foreign nationals by birthplace or nationality.

Where did the drowning deaths occur?

· Seven (70%) coastal drowning deaths occurred less than 1km

from a lifesaving service 17 and two (20%) occurred more than

5km from a lifesaving service.

· Nine (90%) of coastal drowning deaths occurred at a beach

location and seven (70%) occurred close to a patrolled location 18 .

· Four (40%) coastal drowning deaths occurred in the local

government area of Kingston.

When did the drowning deaths occur?

· Two (20%) coastal drowning deaths occurred between 4pm and

5pm and five (50%) occurred between 6pm and 8am.

· Two (20%) occurred on Saturday and eight (80%) occurred

during the week.

· Three (30%) drowning deaths occurred during January with two

in both February and March.

· Seven (70%) occurred during summer (December to March.)

What were the people doing when the drowning deaths

occurred?

· Around the coastline, six (60%) of all those who died by

drowning were swimming or wading at the time.

Other deaths around the coast

· One ocean drowning death 19 was recorded during 2008-09

which involved an apparent diving accident.

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009. 17 See glossary.

18 Ibid 19 Ibid.

14 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – Victoria – Graphs

Graph 23: Month of Vic coastal drowning death

Graph 24: Day of Vic coastal drowning death

3

2

2

1

1

0

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

0

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Graph 25: Time of Vic coastal drowning death

Graph 26: Activity of person prior to coastal drowning death - Vic

2

60.0%

10.0%

Boating (incl. fishing)

30.0%

Other/unknown

1

Swimming/wading

0

2am - 3am

3am - 4am

4am - 5am

5am - 6am

6am - 7am

7am - 8am

8am - 9am

9am - 10am

10am - 11am

11am - Noon

Noon - 1pm

Midnight - 1am

1am - 2am

Total: 10 Unknown: 0

1pm - 2pm

2pm - 3pm

3pm - 4pm

4pm - 5pm

5pm - 6pm

6pm - 7pm

7pm - 8pm

8pm - 9pm

9pm - 10pm

10pm - 11pm

11pm - Midnight

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 15


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – Western Australia

Number of coastal drowning fatalities

· 14 coastal drowning deaths occurred in Western Australia

during 2008-09, an increase of four on the previous year.

· The annual total is higher than the state’s five year average of 11.

Who were they?

· There were four (29%) coastal drowning victims in both the 50 to

60 year age-bracket. In the previous year, the drowning deaths

were primarily in the 20 to 29 year age-bracket (three or 30%).

· At least four (29%) of the nine drowning death victims were

confirmed as foreign nationals by birthplace or nationality.

Where did the drowning deaths occur?

· Three (21%) coastal drowning deaths occurred less than 1km

from a lifesaving service 20 and nine (64%) occurred more than

5km from a lifesaving service.

· Thirteen (93%) of coastal drowning deaths occurred at a beach

location and two (14%) occurred close to a patrolled location 21 .

When did the drowning deaths occur?

· Two (14%) coastal drowning deaths occurred between 11am

and 12pm, and also between 3pm and 4pm.

· Four (29%) occurred on Sunday and ten (71%) occurred during

the week.

· Three (21%) drowning deaths occurred during May and four

(29%) occurred during summer (December to March).

What were the people doing when the drowning deaths

occurred?

· Around the coastline, four (29%) of all those who died by

drowning were swimming or wading at the time, closely followed

three (21%) who drowned while boating.

Other deaths around the coast

· Four coastal deaths 22 occurred during 2008-09, two of which

involved diving or snorkelling.

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009. 20 See glossary. 21 Ibid 22 Ibid.

16 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – Western Australia – Graphs

Graph 27: Month of WA coastal drowning death

Graph 28: Day of WA coastal drowning death

3

4

2

3

2

1

1

0

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

0

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

Graph 29: Time of WA coastal drowning death

Graph 30: Activity of person prior to coastal drowning death - WA

3

14.3% 21.4%

Boating (incl. fishing)

2

1

0

2am - 3am

3am - 4am

4am - 5am

5am - 6am

6am - 7am

7am - 8am

8am - 9am

9am - 10am

10am - 11am

11am - Noon

Noon - 1pm

Midnight - 1am

1am - 2am

Total: 10 Unknown: 0

1pm - 2pm

2pm - 3pm

3pm - 4pm

4pm - 5pm

5pm - 6pm

6pm - 7pm

7pm - 8pm

8pm - 9pm

9pm - 10pm

10pm - 11pm

11pm - Midnight

28.6% 21.4%

7.1%

7.1%

Diving/snorkeling

Fishing (beach & rock)

Other/unknown

Swimming/wading

Watercraft (non-powered)

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 17


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – Tasmania

Number of coastal drowning fatalities

· Seven coastal drowning deaths occurred in Tasmania during

2008-09 a decrease of one on the previous year.

· The annual total is higher than the state’s five year average of five.

Who were they?

· Similar to the previous year, coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09

did not show any dominant age-bracket ‘cluster’ in the data.

· All coastal drowning death victims were believed to originate

from Australia.

Where did the drowning deaths occur?

· Three (43%) coastal drowning deaths occurred between 1km

and 5km from a lifesaving service 23 and the same number more

than 5km from a lifesaving service.

· Two (29%) incidents occurred at a beach but both were away

from a patrolled location 24 .

· Three (43%) coastal drowning deaths occurred in the local

government area of Hobart,

When did the drowning deaths occur?

· The exact time of death of six (86%) of the seven coastal

drowning deaths remains undetermined.

· Two (29%) drowning deaths occurred on Saturday with five

(71%) occurring during the week.

· A double fatality (representing 29% of the annual total) occurred

during April 2009 and another two died by drowning during

summer (December to March).

What were the people doing when the drowning deaths

occurred?

· Two (29%) coastal drowning deaths occurred while the victims

were engaged in fishing at a beach or rock location, compared

to the prior year during when four (50%) were swimming or

wading at their time of death.

Other deaths around the coast

· Two ocean drowning deaths 25 occurred in a boating incident off

the coast.

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009. 23 See glossary. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid.

Graph 21: Month of Tas coastal drowning death

Graph 22: Day of Tas coastal drowning death

2

2

1

1

0

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

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18 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Coastal drowning deaths in 2008-09 3 – Northern Territory

There was one coastal drowning incident in the Northern Territory.

The victim was a 13 year old male who accidently drowned while

playing in Rapid Creek in February 2009. The incident occurred

between 1km and 5km from a lifesaving service, however it was

not during service season or at a regularly guarded location.

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009.

Image courtesy SLSNT

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 19


Lifesaving activity around the coast in 2008-09 3

Table 2: Coastal lifesaving activities – surf lifesavers, support operations and lifeguards

For the first time, data provided by many local government lifeguard

services has been included in the overall total of coastal rescues,

preventions, first aid treatments and resuscitations undertaken

in 2008-09. Previously, only actions conducted by volunteer surf

lifesavers, SLSA support operations and SLSA’s Australian Lifeguard

Service (ALS) were included. The inclusion of this data provides

a more accurate picture of the challenge of keeping Australia’s

coastline safe and is an important contribution to evidence-based

decision-making.

The addition of local government data indicates that lifesaving

activity around the coastline has been significantly under-reported

in the past. Whereas the number of rescues previously reported in

the National Coastal Safety Report has tended to fluctuate between

10,000 and 13,000 annually, the inclusion of local government data

suggests that the 2008-09 figure was more than 25,000 26 . Different

definitions have been used by different providers in compiling these

statistics and caution must therefore be used in their interpretation.

Rescues NSW Qld Vic SA WA Tas NT National

Surf lifesavers and support operations 5,816 3,496 394 241 601 66 7 10,621

Lifeguards 10,813 3,134 313 33 546 2 0 14,841

Total 16,629 6,630 707 274 1,147 68 7 25,462

Preventions NSW Qld Vic SA WA Tas NT National

Lifesavers (incl. Support Ops) 117,565 50,409 21,257 15,289 3,979 229 137 208,865

Lifeguards 756,986 344,785 26,105 4,533 10,756 53 0 1,113,347

Total 874,551 395,194 47,362 19,822 14,735 282 137 1,322,212

First aids NSW Qld Vic SA WA Tas NT National

Surf lifesavers and support operations 11,621 6,240 1,470 691 1,664 89 8 21,783

Lifeguards 26,718 22,808 625 406 1,305 8 0 47,230

Total 38,339 29,048 2,095 1,097 2,969 97 8 69,013

Resuscitations NSW Qld Vic SA WA Tas NT National

Surf lifesavers and support operations 43 3 5 3 7 0 0 61

Lifeguards 32 13 0 0 6 0 0 26

Total 75 16 5 3 13 0 0 87

20 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Further work is required by all lifesaving providers to improve data

collection and validation, consistent with international definitions.

Service enhancements during 2008-09

Extending lifesaving services – targeting ‘blackspots’

The Australian Government, through the Department of Health

and Ageing, provided SLSA with funding allocated to high priority

areas around the Australian coastline during 2008-09. These

‘blackspots’ included:

· In Queensland – commencement of roving patrols at Noosa,

the enhancement of emergency callout capabilities and the

creation of six emergency response groups on the Gold Coast.

· In New South Wales – installation of emergency response

beacons at Byron Bay, Ballina and Randwick and an extensive

upgrade to rescue radio network infrastructure.

· In Victoria – expansion of lifeguard services in Mallacoota

and Venus as well as improvements to rescue radio network

infrastructure in the Bass Coast and adjacent areas.

· In Tasmania – extension of lifesaving and lifeguard patrols

on the south arm of Prince Fredrick Henry Bay and North

Clifton Beach.

· In South Australia – expansion of lifeguard services in the local

government area of Port Adelaide-Enfield at Semaphore beach,

including the construction of a permanent tower, as well as the

rollout of a state-wide emergency callout system.

· In Western Australia – development of an emergency support

operation to service the Geraldton-Greenborough region,

including training of a 24 hour call out team and fitting the group

with essential equipment such as Rescue Water Craft (RWC).

· In the Northern Territory – commencement of a feasibility study

into an Offshore Rescue Boat (ORB) operation to service Darwin.

How can we reduce coastal

drowning deaths?

Australian Water Safety Strategy 2008-11

The Australian Water Safety Strategy 27 aims to achieve a 50%

reduction in drowning deaths by the year 2020. This is an ambitious

undertaking, but one the Australian Water Safety Council (AWSC)

believes is achievable through a strong, collaborative and evidencebased

approach. To achieve this goal, Surf Life Saving draws on its

own organisational strategic plan Saving Lives in the Water 2007-11

and its lifesaving strategy – the Total Service Plan 2009-11.

The Total Service Plan includes an analysis of incident

data including:

· SLSA’s and other providers’ current coastal lifesaving and marine

emergency response capability

· Five-year coastal drowning figures 2004-09 (based on annual

National Coastal Safety Report data)

· Population characteristics and trends, including tourism, and

· Current education programs and national initiatives.

The analysis identifies national ‘blackspots’,‘hotspots’ and service

gaps across the spectra of beach safety, population trends and

growth. This will form the basis for the extension of SLSA lifesaving

services and programs at national, state and local government levels.

3 Refers to year commencing 1 July 2008 and finishing on 30 June 2009. 26 Data provided by City of

Stirling, Coffs Harbour City Council, Gold Coast City Council, Gosford City Council, Kiama Municipal

Council, Lake Macquarie City Council, Manly Council, Newcastle City Council, Port Macquarie-

Hastings Council, Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Sutherland

Shire Council, Warringah Council, Waverley Council, Wollongong City Council. Five councils

(Randwick, Shellharbour, Broome, Denmark and Wyong) were not able to provide lifesaving data for

the preparation of this report.

27

See www.watersafety.com.au for full details.

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 21


Preventing drowning – new initiatives

The Australian Government, through the Department of Health and

Ageing, has provided funding to Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA)

to improve water safety outcomes through several campaigns

developed during 2009-10.

Rock fishing safety campaign

Rock fishing is a highly popular pastime, despite being named ‘the

most dangerous sport in Australia’. According to the Safewaters

report into the NSW coronial files between 1992 and 2003, rock

fishing has the highest fatality rate of any sport in NSW. It also carries

significant social burdens such as a constant drain on the medical

system, loss of income and productivity and the high cost of search

and rescue. In partnership with the Australian National Sportfishing

Association (ANSA), the Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW

(RFANSW) and the Australian Recreational and Sport Fishing Industry

Confederation (Recfish), a new intervention strategy, including new

educational resources and community seminars, will be launched

in late 2009.

Rips currents safety campaign

SLSA statistics demonstrate that the majority of coastal drowning

deaths and serious injuries involve rip currents. A multi-faceted public

education campaign is planned for early summer. This is a significant

initiative for SLSA, as it will be the first time a message other than the

universal ‘swim between the red and yellow flags’ is promoted.

A variety of communication channels will be used, including the web.

CALD beach safety campaign

SLSA statistics demonstrate that people of culturally and linguistically

diverse (CALD) backgrounds and foreign nationals are over-represented

in coastal drownings. SLSA is producing a multi-lingual DVD and

interactive game to provide basic surf safety messages in a range of

languages.

Public safety education resources

As previously noted, Australia has a network of services provided

by volunteer surf lifesavers, council-employed (or contracted)

lifeguards, rescue helicopters, boats, jetskis, cameras and radio

control rooms. By working with other lifesaving providers, in particular

local government, SLSA will assist in the development of industrystandard

educational materials to deliver consistent safety messages

throughout Australia. These materials will be ‘free-for-use’ by any

beach education provider.

Smarter lifesaving services

Given the diversity of SLSA’s operations, an effective information

and communications technology (ICT) system is vital to its

ongoing ability to adapt to, and continue to meet, the needs of the

community. A project to revolutionise SLSA’s existing ICT systems

has begun, which will provide real-time access to information and

business operations anywhere, anytime. Importantly, it will improve

workflows and reduce workloads across all SLSA operational

activities, thus optimising usage of funds and lifesaving resources.

Ultimately, it is envisaged that the systems will enable cross-aquatic

emergency management, agency coordination and collaborative

information sharing.

22 – 2009National Coastal Safety Report


Thanks to

Surf Life Saving Australia wishes to thank the following

people and organisations for their contribution to the

2009 National Coastal Safety Report:

The Australian Government, principally the Department

of Health and Ageing; local government lifeguard services

provided through the Australian Lifeguard Service – NSW:

Tweed Shire, Salt Resorts, Kidsafe Beaches Inc., Byron

Shire, Ballina Shire, Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley,

Bellingen Shire, Nambucca Shire, Kempsey Shire, Greater

Taree City, Great Lakes, Port Stephens, Pittwater, National

Parks and Wildlife Service, Shoalhaven City, Eurobodalla

Shire, Bega Valley Shire Qld: Burdekin Shire, Bundaberg,

Cairns City, Cassowary Coast, Fraser Coast, Gladstone,

Gympie, Hinchinbrook, Mackay, Morton Bay, Rockhampton,

Redland, Southbank Corporation, Townsville City,

Whitsunday Regional Vic: East Gippsland Shire, Wellington

Shire, Parks Victoria – Wilsons Promontory, South Gippsland

Shire; Bass Coast Shire, Mornington Peninsula Shire,

Borough of Queenscliffe, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast

Shire, Colac Shire, Warrnambool City, Moyne Shire SA:

Holdfast Bay City WA: City of Wanneroo, City of Joondalup,

Town of Cambridge, Town of Cottesloe, City of Rockingham,

Shire of Busselton, City of Geraldton – Greenough, City of

Albany Tas: Clarence City NT: Darwin City; local counciloperated

lifeguard services – City of Stirling, Coffs

Harbour City Council, Gold Coast City Council, Gosford

City Council, Kiama Municipal Council, Lake Macquarie

City Council, Manly Council, Newcastle City Council, Port

Macquarie-Hastings Council, Shire of Augusta-Margaret

River, Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Sutherland Shire

Council, Warringah Council, Waverley Council, Wollongong

City Council; SLSA partners including DHL, Telstra and

Westpac; Surf Life Saving state centres, branches, clubs

and support operations; SLSA expert advisors, including

Barry Bruce (CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research), John

West (Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Taronga Zoo)

Index and glossary of terms

Term

ALS

AWSC

AWSS

Blackspot

Drowning

Drowning death

Hotspot

HRS

ILS

IRB

JRB

Lifeguard

Lifesaving service

NCIS

ORB

Patrolled location

Prevention

Rescue

RIB

RWC

Service season & hours

Support Operations

Surf lifesaver

Service Gap

Total Service Plan

Simple definition

SLSA Australian Lifeguard Service.

Australian Water Safety Council – also Australian Water Safety

Conference.

Australian Water Safety Strategy.

An area with a high concentration of coastal/ocean incidents and a high

probability/risk of ongoing reoccurrence.

Respiratory impairment as a result of submersion/immersion in liquid

A fatality arising from the process of respiratory impairment as a result of

submersion/immersion in liquid. A ‘coastal drowning death’ occurs where

the location of the drowning is on the coast or in the ocean up to 1nM offshore.

An ‘ocean drowning death’ occurs where the location of the drowning

is in the ocean greaterw than 1nm offshore, but no greater than 12nm (the

Australian territorial waters limit).

An area with a low/medium concentration of coastal/ocean incidents combined

with a high number of rescues/preventative actions.

Helicopter rescue service.

International Life Saving Federation.

Inflatable rescue boat or ‘rubber duckies’.

Jet rescue boat.

Typically a paid employee at a beach or another aquatic environment whose

job is to rescue people in danger of drowning or prevent them getting into

that situation.

A service which exists to provide aquatic safety services to the public.

National Coroners Information System.

Offshore rescue boat.

A location supervised constantly or periodically by a lifesaving service.

Where intervention by a lifesaving resource averts a person/s from getting

into a potentially life threatening situation.

Where intervention by a lifesaving resource removes a person/s from a life

threatening or potentially life threatening situation.

Rigid inflatable boat.

Rescue water craft – sometimes called a personal water craft.

Vary between states due to climactic factors, but in the context of this report,

the season is for the period of July 2008 to June 2009.

Motorised, rapid response rescue units, not tied to any one surf life saving

club.

Typically a volunteer at a beach or another aquatic environment whose

job is to rescue people in danger of drowning or prevent them getting into

that situation.

An area identified as having an inadequate level of resources to meet public

safety demands.

An assessment of current and future lifesaving resources, national blackspots,

hotspots and trends.

2009National Coastal Safety Report – 23


For more information:

Surf Life Saving Australia

www.slsa.com.au

Surf Life Saving New South Wales

www.surflifesaving.com.au

Surf Life Saving Northern Territory

www.lifesavingnt.com.au

Surf Life Saving Queensland

www.lifesaving.com.au

Surf Life Saving South Australia

www.surfrescue.com.au

Surf Life Saving Tasmania

www.slst.asn.au

Life Saving Victoria

www.lifesavingvictoria.com.au

Surf Life Saving Western Australia

www.mybeach.com.au

Australian Lifeguard Service

www.lifeguards.com.au

For information on local government lifeguard services, contact the

relevant local government.

To help Surf Life Saving save more lives, please donate to the

Surf Life Saving Foundation. www.lifesavingfoundation.com.au

Editor: SLSA Design: Marlin Communications Images: Harvpix /John Veage

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