This study aimed to explore beach-related hazard perception skills of surf lifeguards, swimming-pool lifeguards, and patrons who served as control. Participants were exposed to twenty-nine, 10s long video clips depicting real-world hazardous surf situations footage taken along Israeli Mediterranean beaches from a lifeguard tower perspective. While observing each video clip, participants were asked to press a response button in case they identify a surf situation that may pose a drowning threat for bathers. We examined the participants' eye-movement data and behavioral responses throughout the study.
introduction: This study examined surf lifeguards and patrons’ surf hazard identification abilities and their eye scanning patterns. Surf and swimming-pool professional lifeguards were compared to a control group of Israeli students. Method: Participants observed 29 clips depicting real-time hazardous surf situations footage taken from a lifeguard tower perspective, while connected to an eye-tracker, and were asked to press a response button to any surf situation that they thought may endanger bathers. Eye-scanning patterns and performance in a hazard identification task were examined and analyzed. Results: Surf lifeguards paid more attention to physical features in the nearshore area that have a higher hazard potential for bathers (e.g., rip currents and channels). Moreover, surf lifeguards identified an overall larger number of hazardous situations compared to the two other groups. Lastly, the swimming-pool lifeguards and the control group members were more inclined to focus on the bathers themselves, regardless of the state of the nearshore and its physical characteristics. Conclusions: Demonstrating bathers’ deficiencies in evaluating key, life threatening rip currents as surf hazard instigators, may contribute to the effort of producing public education programs as a major drowning prevention technique. Implications for public health policies are discussed.
ABSTRACT Lifeguards at beaches continuously solve dynamic decision problems when allowing people to enjoy the water while minimizing the probability or severity of risk events at the surf. We show that this decision has the characteristics of a naturalistic decision making decision. We analyse the decision as a dynamic, real time decision in which factors, such as the characteristics of the beach users and their numbers, the existing environmental physical conditions and the deployment strategy of lifeguards and their number at a particular station determine the lifeguards’ decisions when and how to intervene in a proactive or reactive manner. In this particular case it is actually not too difficult to define a normative solution for the decision problem. We suggest that normative, quantitative models of NDM problems are possible and can have definite value.
Along the 190 km of the Israeli Mediterranean coast, of which only about two-thirds is accessible to bathing activities, there are about 100 statutory surf bathing beaches guarded by professional sea lifeguards. The rest of the accessible Israeli Mediterranean coastline is divided into two additional legal categories, which are not guarded: (A) beaches where bathing is forbidden by governmental ordinance because they are too dangerous. (B) Beaches where swimming is freely permitted but not guarded. The estimated number of drowning victims in the Israeli Mediterranean surf since 1948 is about 2200. Reported drowning data show that, since 1973, the number of drownings in the surf has been about 1200 victims. There are almost no drownings reported within the perimeters of the official guarded beaches. The Israeli Mediterranean relative drowning number (RDN) in the surf per million inhabitants reveals for the last 32 years a long-term quasi-stable average of 8.1 and a SD of 2.7. The estimated average number of drownings for the present population would be about 56 victims. The Israeli RDN is higher than that of other Mediterranean countries and probably of other beaches in the world. In this article, I study the Israeli beach-safety management (BSM) schemes and identify and examine the various long-term and short-term temporal variations in drowning patterns, some demographic patterns leading to the identification of some risk groups and some other human, cultural, and managerial factors that seem to be typical for Israeli beaches and relate them to the drowning statistics. The high drowning figures in Israel seem to reflect both the meteorological and oceanographic conditions of Israel's Mediterranean coast and the BSM schemes. I suggest that Israeli RDN can, however, be reduced by proper modern scientific and managerial approach.
Drowning hazards result from the interaction between bathers and the morphodynamic surf processes related to the regional synoptic setup and regional offshore oceanographic conditions. We focus on the beach hazard rating (BHR) derived from meteorological parameters of synoptic scale that control seasonal swell generation and direction. We suggest a new characterization of the seasonal Mediterranean meteo-oceanographic systems as a relationship between the regional meteorological parameters averaged over a given period of time and space and the resulting regional wave climate and direction. Our study area is the entire Mediterranean Sea and its coastlines. We suggest the onshore storminess factor (ONSF) as a proxy to express the amount of energy approaching a given coastal segment, and use ONSF maps of the Mediterranean Sea as a tool for drowning hazard and drowning risk analyses. For beach safety management (BSM), we recommend that the regional ONSF—a macro scale approach—be used before applying a morphodynamic BHR approach, which operates on a micro scale at the local or single beach level. ONSF maps show that the Eastern Libyan, Egyptian, Gaza Strip, Israeli, and Lebanon coasts, all located in the southeastern Mediterranean Sea, are tagged with higher ONSF values. The rest of the coast of Libya and southern Tunis show intermittent ONSF values. The lower ONSF values typically occur along most of the northern and western Mediterranean shores; however most of these shores have very low ONSF values.