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‘Safer Phuket’ group announce plans for new lifeguard towers

January 27, 2014

A new water safety initiative called ‘Safer Phuket’ may see 50 new lifeguard towers and a new internationally-recognised skipper qualification launched on Phuket.

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Qualified skipper and Phuket resident and businessman Duncan Stewart, one of the founders of Safer Phuket, said that when he moved to Phuket he wanted to give something back, and started thinking about ways he could make a difference.

Noticing the large number of drownings off the island’s beaches, Mr Stewart decided to set up a social enterprise around marine and coastal water safety.

Mr Stewart; Shoreline Asia Consulting partner Peter Grimes; Martin Carpenter, the British honorary consul and managing director of Phuket Concierge; and Tarin “Chompoo” Tachthongchan are the founding partners of Safer Phuket.

The initiative was officially launched by Phuket Governor Maitree Intusut in late November, and will be discussed more in-depth at the Coastal Waters Safety Summit being held on the island in collaboration with the British Embassy on January 9 and 10.

One of the first plans Safer Phuket has is to set up 50 lifeguard towers around the island’s beaches. Lifeguards, currently employed by the Phuket Lifeguard Club, will be given extra training and lifeguard towers will have the ability to be “sponsored” by businesses or companies, generating income for the group.

The local lifeguard club were “110 per cent” behind the project, Mr Stewart said.

The idea is that the lifeguard towers will be similar to what you find on Australia’s Bondi Beach, where there are many such towers, each with a full range of life-saving equipment.

Lifeguard training is planned to start in May or June, at the start of the island’s monsoon season.

The second main plan is to introduce an internationally-recognised skipper qualification for Thai skippers and crew in Phuket. The plan is that there will be three different levels of powerboat licencing, based on the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) format.

Safer Phuket hopes to deliver a tailored Thailand programme, based on the internationally recognised training standard, but with local variations and adaptations as needed and agreed.

As for the main source of funding, Mr Stewart said the set-up will be a social enterprise, and will operate as a business. The initial start-up capital of US$10,000 has been provided by Mr Stewart and Mr Grimes. Any profit made will be directed back into Safer Phuket projects.

Feedback and support from government departments and Gov Maitree was “very positive”, however Mr Stewart acknowledged the difficulties the team may face in implementing their plans.

“We are going to have a lot of issues and battles, but people recognise the need, and there are substantial power figures getting involved.

“There’s no reason why this shouldn’t happen; the will, the money and the direction is there.”

 

Beach management is an essential part of any ‘Safer Phuket’ vision.

Placing Beach Flags for Safety Zone Conditions

Beach flags are becoming more popular throughout the world, particularly at surf beaches. But it requires management:changing the colored flags in a timely fashion can be troublesome, particularly in areas where weather and water conditions are so unpredictable. Another potential problem with beach flags is that lifeguards often are required to take the flags down when they leave for the day. Many drowning deaths occur after hours when both lifeguards and flags are absent.

Flags to Identify Water Quality

It is important to show our visitors how clean and wonderful our water is, so one option is to adopt the Blue flags (and Blue Flag awards) system used in Europe and South Africa to indicate clean water that has passed bacteria standards (see http://www.blueflag.org)

Flags to Identify Surf Conditions

The water quality flag system should not be confused with a beach warning flag system often used at marine beaches to indicate surf conditions. Most beach flag advocates recommend the traffic light color scheme (red, yellow, and green).

Channeling the Public to Beach Access Points

Aggressive safety signage is a vitally important service for all beach visitors, but even the best signs will be ineffective if they are not read because the public is not drawn to them. Likewise, boaters should be warned and educated as they are channeled or funneled to their launches.

Using Access Points to Warn and Educate

If we strategically position aggressive warning signs that are designed properly and not camouflaged in long lists of rules and regulations, it would be difficult for guests to claim ignorance. People who have been injured at the beach often claim they were unaware the hazard existed or that they did not see the warning signs.

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