Science

Safety award for science video

Thursday, 3 September, 2009

A specially made UNSW-TV video on beach safety that has been viewed by tens of thousands of people has won an Australian Safer Communities Award, sponsored by Emergency Management Australia (EMA).

The five-minute video, titled Don't Get Sucked in by the Rip, is aimed at reducing the 90 or so drownings on Australian beaches every year, most of which result from swimmers getting caught in rip currents.  Thousands more beachgoers are rescued by lifeguards and lifesavers due to rips as well.

The video is the brainchild of Dr Rob Brander, a lifesaver and coastal geographer in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Mary O'Malley, Executive Producer  of UNSWTV and UNSW Deputy Director of Communications.

Posted on YouTube (here), the video has attracted almost 48,000 views, with many thousands more watching  on Dr Brander's special website relating to his Science of The Surf public education program http://www.scienceofthesurf.com/.

Dr Brander uses a harmless purple dye to show where rip currents can be found on the beach and how they are behaving. Coupled with simple graphics and high-quality videography, the video explains not only how to recognize a rip but how to respond if you are caught in one.

Typical of the many positive viewer comments posted at the YouTube site is this one: "If everybody planning to go to the beach to swim watched this, fatalities from rip currents would sharply fall. This vid is easy to understand without sacrificing accuracy. Great job!"

Another viewer wrote: "We're regular beach-goers with the family both here in Sydney and up the coast and NO ONE (including lifesavers on the beach) has properly or clearly explained to us what a rip looks like or to look for that clear channel of water - this was fantastic!!"

Dr Brander says: "There are over 11,000 beaches in Australia and they are arguably the best in world. Unfortunately, only 3% of these beaches are patrolled by lifesavers and lifeguards and it is of considerable concern that so many beachgoers drown and need to be rescued each year.

"These figures are unacceptably high and are largely due to a lack of understanding of the general public to the natural processes and hazards present on beaches. In fact, a recent study by UNSW has shown that almost 70% of Australians visiting the coast cannot spot a rip.

"The Science of the Surf program addresses this problem by providing a basic scientific understanding of the way that beaches, waves and rip currents work. We're truly delighted by this award and the recognition it gives to our efforts to save lives."

The awards recognise best practice and innovation by organisations and individuals that help to build safer communities across Australia. EMA is a division of the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department and conducts the awards in conjunction with States and Territories.

They cover all aspects of community safety in the context of emergency management including: risk assessment, research, education and training, information and knowledge management, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

Media contact

Bob Beale UNSW Faculty of Science - mobile 0411 705 435 bbeale@unsw.edu.au