WA - Beach Lifeguard more
NSW - Kemspey Casual Lifeguards more
NSW - Great Lakes Casual Lifeguards more
NSW - Nambucca Casual Lifeguards more
Opportunity to participate in tsunami study more
Coates Hire On Board as Official Naming Partner of Coolangatta Gold more
Melissa King starts role as SLSA CEO more
SLSA Launches Book to Recognise Those Who Served more

Research and innovation

In this section

The ALS is committed to research and innovation as a leader in the aquatic safety and lifeguard services industry. With the support of the world’s oldest and most respected surf lifesaving organisation – SLSA – the ALS is able to participate in research at national and international levels to ensure a safer aquatic environment.

Local councils, coastal management agencies and groups, privates developers and tourism operators will all benefit from this research, most of which can be delivered through the lifeguarding services the ALS provides.

This page outlines the major projects that are currently being scoped or underway.

Breaking the Drowning Chain

As a part of the SLSA strategy to 2016, a total service plan is being reviewed to direct lifesaving and lifeguarding resources over the next three to five years. The plan assesses a current snapshot of Surf Life Saving’s effort and service, presents an analysis of historical incident data and recommends solutions to address these emerging trends and fatality concentrations.

The nation’s blackspots, incident trends and service gaps have been identified so that lifesaving and lifeguarding resources can be allocated to achieve the greatest result and reduce preventable drowning around the Australian coastline.

The ALS in partnership with Coastsafe, can work with local councils and land owners to ensure the best use of resources at any given beach and assist councils to formulate strategies to cover beaches that may not already have lifeguarding services. For more information on Coastal Risk Assessments and Safety Audits click here.

Blackspot’s, trends and targeted campaigns

What is a blackspot? A blackspot as an area with a high concentration of coastal/ocean incidents and a high probability/risk of ongoing reoccurrence. These are currently being finalised and once established, will be targeted through local level action plans. Remedies will include the implementation/revision of new and existing volunteer lifesaving and lifeguarding services, roll out of tailored education programs and other means that are deemed necessary to reduce preventable drowning and death in the area.

What is a trend? It is a measurable consistency in relevant information/data that may have an impact on lifesaving and lifeguarding resources currently or in the future. Through the analysis of National Coastal Safety Report data 2004-2012 the plan identifies three core areas which will form the basis of public education campaigns for the next three years. There are:

Rip Awareness (Major Campaign) Getting all Australians to know about Rips!

Swimming and Wading is the highest reported drowning trend within the drowning data. An overwhelming majority of the rescue and preventative actions to the public arise from swimming at ocean beaches with an estimated up to 89% occurring in Rips. To put it in perspective, in Australia rips caused the drowning of over twice the number of people during the 2011-12 season alone, than sharks have killed over the last 100 years.

From feedback surveys:

  • 96% of Australians believe swimming between the red and yellow flags is safest
  • 40% of these don’t always swim between the flags
  • only 40% could confidently identify a Rip but 70% claimed they knew how to swim out of one
  • only 20% check with the lifeguard/lifesaver before swimming

Rock Fishing (Targeted Campaign)

Rock fishing is a highly popular past time that many enjoy around the nation daily. It has also been dubbed the most dangerous sport in Australia. According to the ‘Safewaters’ report into the NSW coronial files for rock fishing deaths between 1992 and 2003, not only does this pastime have the highest fatality rate of any sport, but it has also carried significant social burdens such as the constant drain on the medical system, loss of income & productivity and the high cost of search and rescue.

Rock fishing fatalities have continued and refuse to subside regardless of the intervention measures tried over the past four decades. While some states have improved these incidents in recent years, nationally there has not been great improvement. SLSA are working with partners already targeting this issue and assist in the development of these interventions and programs.

Foreign Nationals (Targeted Campaign)

In Australia the incident of international tourists and other foreign nationals drowning in the surf environment is over represented in SLSA data. Of the incidents examined over the 2004-2008 period, 25% were determined to have been born outside of Australia and 17.8% had foreign nationality. Trends indicate that the primary risk activity is still swimming and wading but also highlights an increasing risk amongst those snorkelling and diving. There is also a clear over representation in local government areas where a highly transient tourist population continue to cycle.

The ALS will work with SLSA to target this trend over the next three years to reduce this over representation of preventable foreign national drowning and protect Australia’s growing tourism and immigration interests. Foreign nationals demonstrate that when moving to a new country there are often dangers and hazards that are unique to that land – Australia’s beaches are no exception. It is also hoped that there will be a residual effect on Australians returning from overseas travel and travelling domestically.

Evidenced based decision making

As part of the ALS’s commitment to evidence-based decision making, we are investing considerable time and resources improving our ICT systems. That means we make decisions on resource allocation based on the latest and best information.

The data collected by lifeguards on the beaches is very important for decision making at all levels of our decision making. For example, it allows us to identify ‘hotspots’ and service gaps and allocate resources so that we can achieve our goal of ‘preventing deaths and injuries by proactive intervention’.

Notable Research Reports due to be published soon

  • SLSA Total Service Plan 2012-2017 (Incorporating the ALS)
  • National Coastal Safety Report 2012

"...committed to research and innovation as a leader in the aquatic safety and lifeguard services industry."