Surf Life Saving Australia
Coastal Safety Brief
Rip Currents September 2016
Rip Currents Snapshot 2004 –2015 September 2016 Page 2 of 18
ANALYSIS On average, at least 19 people drown per year as a result of rip currents. It’s the highest number of deaths for an individual hazard or activity.1
AVERAGE DEATHS PER YEAR
AVERAGE FATALITY RATE
PER 100,000 POPULATION
Swimming/Wading Attempting a Rescue Watercraft Rock Fishing Rock/Cliff Related Diving Snorkelling Other
Australian residents, Australian-born and overseas-born
PARTICIPATION Swimming/Wading 2 • 9.7 million swimmers
• 3.4 million frequent swimmers (at least once a month) • Occasional swimmers average 8 hours per year • Frequent swimmers average 80 hours per year
RIP-CURRENT DROWNING DEATHS TREND 2004–2015
Rate (per 100,000 pop.)
Rip Currents Rip Currents in Australia September 2016 Page 3 of 18
A rip current is a narrow seaward flowing current of water moving through the surf zone. Rip currents are a significant contributor to coastal drowning deaths. There were 210 rip-current-related drowning deaths from 2004â€“2015 on the Australian coast, which is an average of 19 drowning deaths per year. Rips account for more deaths per year than sharks, floods and cyclones combined.3 Most of the deaths occurred while swimming or wading, predominantly at unpatrolled locations (or at patrolled locations outside of patrol hours). Rip-current-related drowning activity varies among the states and territory. NSW, QLD and VIC combined represent 79% of the rip-current-related deaths since 2004. Young males are highly represented in the drowning statics and are a key target group for rip-current-related interventions. The SLSA National Coastal Safety Survey 2016 revealed that there are 9.7 million coastal swimmers in Australia, and 3.4 million frequent swimmers. Additionally, 59% of Australians swim at the beach or coast at least once each year. The Ipsos Social Research Institute Swimming and Wading Report 2016 highlighted that swimming at the beach is a core part of Australian culture. It is primarily about fun and relaxation. As a result, swimmers typically do not feel that they need safety information and they do not seek it out. Communications regarding rip safety need to be pushed to swimmers and need to challenge their beliefs regarding beach safety.
Rip Currents Location and Activity September 2016 Page 4 of 18
Rip-current-related Fatalities 2004-2015
2 2 2
Rip Current Blackspots NSW Byron Shire Wyong Shire
QLD Gold Coast City
City of Warrnambool
2 4 2 6 3
3 8 2
2 8 2
3 2 3
Attempting a rescue
Key to Drowning Activity
Multiple instances per activity at the same location HOBART
Reference: SLSA National Coastal Safety Report 2015
2004–2015 National ripcurrent-related drowning deaths by state (n=210).
NSW QLD VIC SA WA TAS NT
2004–2015 National ripcurrent-related drowning deaths by activity (n=210).
Swimming/Wading Attempting a Rescue Watercraft Rock Fishing Rock/Cliff-related Diving Snorkelling Other
Rip Currents Causal Analysis 2004–2015
September 2016 Page 5 of 18
86 36 male years
% Average age of deceased 50% aged15–34 years 22% aged 50+ years
2004–2015 Rip-current-related drowning deaths by age (n=210).
5-9 10-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65-69 70-74 75-79 80-84 85+
53% December–February 26% March–April
Reference: SLSA National Coastal Safety Report 2015
2004–2015 Rip-current-related drowning deaths by time (n=210).
2004-2015 Rip-current-related drowning deaths by month (n=210).
Rip Currents Causal Analysis 2004â€“2015
September 2016 Page 6 of 18
50 % 14
Were swimming more than 1km from a lifesaving service Affected by alcohol/ drugs
72 % 14
Were swimming or wading
Were attempting a rescue
80 % 41 %
Reference: SLSA National Coastal Safety Report 2015
Australian residents Lived more than 50km from drowning location
Rip Currents Participation Profile September 2016 Page 7 of 18
Frequent swimmers swim an average of
hours per year
Occasional swimmers swim an average of 8 hours per year 2
3.4 million frequent coastal swimmers
40 30 20 10 0
of Australians swim at the coast at least once per year
2016 2 Age of coastal swimmers.
of 16–17 year olds swim at the coast at least once per year
Percentage of Population (%)
Percentage of Population (%)
2016: NATIONAL PARTICIPATION IN COASTAL SWIMMING 2
65% 59% 52% 48%
Rip Currents Coastal Visitation September 2016 Page 8 of 18 1% 2%
2014â€“2016 5 Usual coastal swimming location. Q. Where do you usually go swimming in the ocean?
Patrolled Beach During Patrol Hours Only Patrolled Beach but Not During Patrol Hours Only Unpatrolled Beach Rock Pool Harbour Pool Netted/Enclosed Pool Canâ€™t Say
usually swim at an unpatrolled beach 26%
Total Been Caught in a Rip
28% 28% 24%
2016 Coastal swimming ability of the Australian public. Q36. Which of the following best describes your current and unaided swimming ability in coastal areas? 6
cannot swim or can swim for less than 15 minutes only
4% 2% I cannot float or swim
I can comfortably float for over 1 minute & swim a little distance
swim at unpatrolled locations because they are not always or are never patrolled
I can comfortably float & gently swim for up to 15 minutes
I can comfortably float & gently swim for up to 30 minutes
I can I can comfortably constantly float & gently swim for over swim for up 1 hour & float to 60 minutes as long as I wish
2016 6 Reasons for swimming at unpatrolled beaches. Q. What are the reasons why you swim or wade at beaches/coastal areas 3% that are not patrolled by lifeguards or lifesavers, or outside patrolled times?
10% 8% 6%
Beach not always patrolled or not patrolled at all
It is a Patrolled safe beaches beach/ are too calm crowded water
Patrolled beaches are too far away
I wade More or do privacy/ not go isolated in very deep
I swim Peaceful/ I'm an I swim Adventure/ outside quiet/ experienced with risk/ patrol relaxing enough others freedom/ times swimmer fun
Rip Currents Hazard Perception September 2016 Page 9 of 18
believe the beach is very or extremely hazardous
2014â€“2016 5 Hazard perception of the beach. Q. How hazardous do you believe the beach to be ?
Extremely Hazardous Very Hazardous Somewhat Hazardous Not very Hazardous Not at all Hazardous Can't Say
Frequent Swimmers Occasional Swimmers
2015-16 Hazard perception of swimming. Q. How hazardous do you believe swimming on the coast to be? 4
1% Extremely Hazardous
Not Very Hazardous
Not at All Hazardous
2015-16 4 Perception of coastal hazards. Q. How would you rate the following hazards in Australian coastal areas? Percentage of Australian popuation who believe various coastal hazards are very or extremely hazardous.
72% 57% 55%
believe rip currents are very or extremely hazardous 2016 6 Confidence to escape a rip current. Q. How confident are you that you could get out of a rip current without assistance?
of occasional swimmers do not believe swimming at the coast is hazardous 62%
Tropical Marine Stinger Creatures
Marine Stinger Creatures
7% 2% No chance, Very slight Some Fairly Probably almost no possibility possibility good (7 in 10) chance (1 in 10) (3 in 10) possibility (1 in 100) (5 in 10)
Almost Certain, sure practically (9 in 10) certain (99 in 100)
believe there is a fairly good (or higher) chance of being caught in a rip outside the flags
Rip Currents Understanding Rip Currents September 2016 Page 10 of 18
Total Male Female
47% 42% 38%
of men are somewhat or very
3% 3% 3%
confident they can identify a rip current
Not at all confident
Not very confident
Highly Competent Swimmer
very confident about escaping from a rip
Unable to Swim
2016 6 Confidence to escape a rip current. Q. How confident are you that you could get out of a rip current without assistance?
2015–2016 4 Ability of swimmers to identify rip currents. Q. Please look at the pictures below [in the survey] and identify the location of any rip currents.
2016 6 Confidence to identify a rip current. Q. How confident are you that you could identify a rip current?
Not at all confident Not very confident Somewhat confident Very confident Don't know
of people could accurately identify a rip current
“They say you can [go with the rip], but if it’s taking you out, that might get a bit disconcerting.” Born in Australia, male, 25–34 years old
Rip Currents Safety Practices of Coastal Swimmers
September 2016 Page 11 of 18
do not always swim at a patrolled beach during patrol times
never check surf or weather conditions
always look for rip currents before entering the water
2014â€“2016 5 Safety practices of coastal swimmers. Q. How often do you follow these swimming practices? 7% 7%
2% 4% 26%
2% 6% 19%
Most of the time Always
Only swim at a patrolled beach during patrol times
Swim between the red and yellow flags when you are on a patrolled beach
Swim with at least one other person
Check surf conditions with a lifesaver, lifeguard or other authoritative source
Check for and obey safety signs posted on the beach
Look for the presence of rip currents in the area prior to entering the water
Avoid swimming under the influence of alcohol/drugs
Follow the advice of the local lifesaver or lifeguard when you are on a patrolled beach
Seek information online
4% Scuba diving company
16% 17% 15%
Swimming / surfing/fishing /boating/snorkelling /diving club or organisation
Marine rescue organisation
None of these /can't say
Surf Life Saving
14% Coast guards
State government maritime agency
Using an app on smartphone or tablet
Regular email newsletter
Bureau of Meteorology
seek information from lifeguards or lifesavers
Rip Currents How to Reach Us September 2016 Page 12 of 18
2015â€“2016 4 Authorities that coastal/ beach swimmers turn to for coastal safety information.
2015â€“2016 4 Places where coastal/beach swimmers usually seek coastal safety information.
Rip Currents Behaviourial Framework for Key Audiences
September 2016 Page 13 of 18
Desired Behaviour Change: • • • • •
Swim at patrolled locations Swim between the red and yellow flags Check for rip currents Learn to identify rip currents Learn how to escape from rip currents
KEY SOURCES OF BEHAVIOUR 6 •
CAPABILITY (Knowledge and skills) Psychological
48% don’t always swim/ wade between the flags, when at a patrolled beach
72% don’t always swim/ wade at patrolled locations, during patrolled hours 55% don’t always look for rips
Confidence in their swimming ability, based on: -- previous ‘education’ (including informal guidance from parents) -- a lifetime of experience in the water (despite varied levels) -- surfing experience and ability -- feel safe within the flags, or even just near them, if the lifeguards or lifesavers can see them, or if they are still standing or not going too far out Many lack clarity regarding rip identification and different escape options (especially without assistance) Some (e.g. recent migrants) lack detailed understanding of the risks of swimming in the ocean, especially what rips really are and how they work, and the importance of swimming between the flags
CAPABILITY (Knowledge and skills) Physical
• Swimming competence affects level of caution taken and perceived risk • Limited actual experience, and (where tested recently) varied ability, in escaping a rip or treading water in difficult conditions
MOTIVATION (Brain processes that energise and direct behaviour) Reflective
• Desire to relax and have fun makes it harder for ‘safety’ messaging to appeal to or cut through to the target audience • Many assume they are safe enough if others are swimming nearby • Some prefer non-flag areas or unpatrolled beaches for a number of reasons, including: convenience, space and quiet • Behaviour is limited by certain attitudes (e.g. I am experienced, I am already aware of the rules/recommendations, and I can judge a safe spot)
MOTIVATION (Brain processes that energise and direct behaviour) Automatic
• Safety-related behaviour is somewhat habitual, subconscious • Some (e.g. migrants) haven’t really thought about safety
OPPORTUNITY (Factors outside the individual) Physical OPPORTUNITY (Factors outside the individual) Social
• Some live or park further away from the flags • Some live further away from patrolled beaches
• There is a strong norm to swim between the flags, for most (although not for some more experienced surfers/swimmers) • Some follow their more experienced friends (e.g. in deciding whether it’s safe enough to go in, or when they swim further out) • Friends aren’t necessarily trusted or seen as experts on rips or ocean survival • Lifeguards/lifesavers are an important source of advice, in situ
Rip Currents Key Targets September 2016 Page 14 of 18
Target Segmentation Males aged 15–39 years old Born in Australia and overseas WHO ARE THEY?
HOW DO WE TALK WITH THEM?
The least confident or least experienced swimmers (including recent migrants).
This group tends to be reasonably cautious, once or if they are aware of the risks.
Early awareness is critical among this group. They are relatively easily targeted as they are open to new information.
Everyone in the middle.
This group think they know enough and are doing enough, but this is not necessarily the case.
Communications need to challenge this belief and show swimmers that they are not doing enough to be safe. If it is made clear enough to this group that they lack particular knowledge, they seem to listen.
The most confident or experienced swimmers (including surfers).
This group takes more risks and is harder to convince to stay between the flags, as they think they are experienced enough not to need to. They are (or believe they are) better able to identify rips and (if caught) to escape.
There is a need to challenge this group’s belief that they are knowledgeable and experienced enough by showing them situations where their knowledge is either lacking or inaccurate.
“If it looks calm, I’ll be happier to stay away from the flags.” Born in Australia, male, 25–34 years old
“Once you are experienced enough, you know how to get out.” Born overseas, male, 18–24 years old
Rip Currents Communications September 2016 Page 15 of 18
Communications POTENTIAL BARRIERS 6
Swimmers typically do not feel as though they need safety information.
Information needs to be pushed out to swimmers, rather than relying on them to seek it, providing a strong argument for in situ communications.
Swimming at the beach is a core part of Australian culture… it is primarily about fun and relaxation.
Communications and education need to work with this mindset, not against it (i.e. being well informed will help swimmers and waders to relax and enjoy themselves). Safety messaging should encourage swimmers and waders to stay alert.
Those who grew up in Australia assume they already know what they need to know.
If gaps in knowledge are highlighted (or myths and misinterpretations are challenged), the target audience seems open to new information.
Swimmers tend to feel safe if they are just outside the flags as they believe the lifeguards/lifesavers can still see them. If they swim further away from the flags or at unpatrolled beaches, they typically believe they are doing other things to play it safe. For this reason, lack of a lifeguard/lifesaver patrol is often not a sufficient barrier to swimming.
It is useful to challenge them to reflect upon and rethink their ‘usual’ behaviour, and not let themselves off the hook too easily, as well as to rethink the effectiveness of their safety strategies.
Many are doing the right thing most of the time: that is, swimming within their ability, usually between the flags, and taking precautions (especially in riskier situations).
It is useful to challenge them to reflect upon and rethink the occasional exceptions to their ‘usual’ behaviour (however infrequent they may be), and not let themselves off the hook too easily, as well as to rethink the effectiveness of their safety strategies.
Many swimmers feel a gap in their knowledge about rips and how to identify them. However, in many cases, this lack of knowledge only became apparent to them when they were tested.
Quizzes and the like could be a useful way to demonstrate to the wider population that they need to increase their understanding of the ocean.
“I know there is danger, but I don’t really think about it.” Born overseas, male, 18–24 years old
“I am more worried about being bitten than drowning. In a large swell I know I can swim out, but I can’t fight off a shark.” Born overseas, male, 18–24 years old
Rip Currents Communications Strategy September 2016 Page 16 of 18
AWA RE NE S S
AWA RE NE S S
• State the facts about rips. • Challenge people’s perceptions of rips. • Challenge people’s rip identification knowledge.
B E H AVIOUR CH A N G E
B E H AVIOUR CH A N G E
B E H AVI OU R CH A N G E
• Take awareness and changed perception to give clear directive of new behaviour that’s catchy and memorable. • Encourage consideration of beach conditions and rip current identification. • Stop. Look. Make a safe plan.
• Convey the message people don’t know what they think they know.
• Continue messaging around swimming at patrolled beaches and between the red and yellow flags.
• Sow the seeds of doubt.
• Harder hitting message to impact on behaviour change.
AWA R E N E S S
B E H AV I O U R C H A N G E
Rip Currents Communications Plan September 2016 Page 17 of 18
What Behaviour Do We Want to Change?
Males, born in Australia and overseas 15–39 years old
Desired Behaviour Change: Swim at patrolled locations Swim between the red and yellow flags
Swimming at unpatrolled locations. Underestimating the rip current hazard.
On average, 19 people lose their life each year in rip currents. Most were swimming at unpatrolled locations.
Who’s Behaviour are We Trying to Change?
Men aged 15–39 years, Australian residents. Born in Australia and overseas.
Potential Barriers to Change
Swimming in the flags is inconvenient. Others are more at risk. Message doesn’t apply to them.
Who is the Active Voice? And Why?
Male voice speaking with authority but colloquially. Challenging targets’ beliefs and myths.
Tone of Voice
Factual. Credible. Not alarmist.
Learn how to identify rip currents Check for rip currents Learn how to escape from a rip current
Rip Currents Methodology September 2016 Page 18 of 18
Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Report 2015 The Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Report (NCSR) is published annually and contains information on Australian community behaviours and attitudes to the coast; SLS capability and membership capacity; rescues and emergency response; and coastal drowning deaths. The 2015 NCSR represents the statistics from the period of 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015. Trend analyses from 2004-15 are also included. All care is taken to ensure the statistical information included within this report is correct. However, pending the outcome of ongoing coronial investigations and as SLS state/territory entities update their operational information, this data may be amended.
explored reactions to specific campaign concepts, and the qualitative findings helped to shape the subsequent questionnaire used in the quantitative component. The quantitative research phase was carried out from 6-27 November 2015. This component comprised an online survey of n=1094 swimmers and waders, followed by comprehensive analysis of the data. Given the geographic spread of the Australian coastline, Ipsos SRI used a representative sample of Australian swimmers and waders, involving the application of non-interlocking quotas according to the following demographic characteristics: gender, age, state, and area. Weighting was then applied to the sample to ensure the representativeness of the data was maintained. Data illustrated in figures may not always add up to 100% due to rounding.
Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Surveys The annual Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Surveys collect Information about community swimming ability, behaviours and attitudes to coastal safety. The survey is conducted by Newspoll Market Research and Omnipoll and is run online over a four-day period each April among a national sample of approximately 1400 respondents aged 16 to 69. The study is carried out in compliance with ISO 20252 - Market, Social and Opinion Research. To reflect the population distribution, results were post-weighted (on age, gender, geographic strata and education) and projected to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
Ipsos Social Research Institute Swimming and Wading Report 2016 The Ipsos Social Research Institute Swimming and Wading Report 2016 was a result of research comprised of two distinct methodological phases: a qualitative research component, followed by a quantitative research component. Both phases covered similar topic areas: swimming attitudes and behaviours, risk perceptions and strategies, rip current identification and safety, information needs and sources, and interventions. The qualitative research also
References Brander, R., D. Dominey-Howes , C. Champion , O. Del Vecchio , and B. Brighton (2013): “Brief Communication: A new perspective on the Australian rip current hazard” Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 13, 1687–1690, 2013. Ipsos Social Research Institute (2016) Swimming and Wading Report 2016 . Ipsos: Sydney Surf Life Saving Australia (2015) National Coastal Safety Report 2015. SLSA: Sydney. Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Survey (2014, 2015, 2016). Newspoll Online Omnibus April 2014 and 2015, and an Omnipoll online panel 2016. Page References 1.
SLSA National Coastal Safety Report 2015
SLSA National Coastal Safety Survey 2016
Reference: R. Brander et al.
SLSA National Coastal Safety Survey 2015–16 (average)
SLSA National Coastal Safety Survey 2014–16 (average)
Ipsos Social Research Institute Swimming and Wading Report 2016