-It’s official. Beach hazards are a greater risk for visitors than for locals, according to research by Life Saving Victoria. Using cutting-edge Geographic Information System (GIS) technology from industry leaders Esri Australia, Life Saving Victoria has mapped the locations of the state’s drowning deaths with data relating to the victims’ usual residences.
Life Saving Victoria Risk and GIS Development Manager Rob Andronaco said while there are a range of factors that contribute to drowning, results uncovered with the GIS technology suggests unfamiliarity with the area could be amongst the most telling. “We’ve found a pattern in that the majority of people who have drowned along the coast have travelled from Melbourne to a beach outside their local area,” Mr Andronaco said. “This suggests factors such as being unfamiliar with the risks in that particular area, or a reduced level of care being taken because they are on holiday or relaxing, may contribute to the risk of drowning.”
Life Saving Victoria reported 38 drowning deaths in the state from the start of July 2011 to the end of June 2012, an increase of three deaths on the previous period. Mr Andronaco said Life Saving Victoria is trialling GIS technology to understand the factors behind drowning incidents and better apply injury prevention and safety promotion strategies. “Future directions include use of GIS technology to help improve capture and reporting of incident and rescue data by lifesavers at patrolled beaches in Victoria,” Mr Andronaco said. “We will use Esri Australia’s GIS technology to map the circumstances of each incident – such as the victim’s age, place of residence and the type and location of the body of water – so that we can analyse and visualise the relationships between these factors. “For example, visualising the connection between the location of the drowning and where the victim usually resides helps us establish and classify risk areas, so resources, education programs, signage and other drowning prevention measures can be established and supported to reduce the occurrence of future incidents.
” Esri Australia Business Manager Bertrand Gauch said in terms of water safety research and management, Life Saving Victoria had set a benchmark in the use of GIS technology for other lifesaving organisations across Australia. “Most drowning deaths are preventable, so if lifesaving organisations can better understand why they happen, more lives can be saved,” Mr Gauch said. “Life Saving Victoria has shown that GIS technology can offer a proverbial lifeline – from underpinning research into the causes of drowning, to planning and directing school education campaigns. “It is our goal to continue to engage with lifesaving bodies across the country to help them use GIS technology to reduce the incidence of drowning.”