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An expert calls for changes to make Phuket beaches safe for all

Dane Drowns at Karon: Call for Safety in the Sea

Monday, August 17, 2009
What An Expert Says Phuket Needs

A TOURIST drowned on Sunday at Karon beach, Chalong police told Phuketwan today.

The man, named as Anders Jorgen Hauge, 57, came from Denmark. His body was taken from the water at the southern end of the beach, opposite the Karon sports stadium, about 1.50pm.

He was with his son, Emil Hauge Andersen,aged 20, at the time. The two were staying at Marina Phuket Resort, Karon.

A beachguard, Ei Kuji, warned the men that conditions were not safe for swimming. The Danes had arrived on Phuket the previous day.

Almost every weekend, at least one drowning has been reported on Phuket during the monsoon season, causing alarm among people who believe the deaths are needless and could be prevented.

Phuket's Public Health Ministry has begun providing month by month figures for drownings on the island, with the total over 30 for the first six months of the year.

But the official figures do not record which beaches are safe and which beaches record the most deaths.

Nor does there appear to be in place an adequate warning system, or a system that gives those who swim into difficulties more than a vague chance of being rescued.

Here's the advice of Australian water safety expert David Field:

I have been involved in the training of lifeguards in Phuket since 2001. Although I train lifeguards employed in the hotel industry I have had opportunity to train beachguards over my time in Phuket and have had ample opportunity to look closely at beach management practices on Phuket's beaches.

I would make the following recommendations to reduce drownings immediately in Phuket during the low or summer season.

1. Implement beach management practices where trained lifeguards identify safe areas on beaches for swimming. ie areas free from rips and undercurrents and mark these areas with appropriate identification for beach users.

Currently, beachguards fly red flags continuously during the low /summer season on all beaches. Why? People travel to Phuket to enjoy the warm waters of the Andaman Sea and they could do so safely if beachguards were properly trained to provide safe swimming areas on beaches

2. Train beachguards to professional standards to recognise hazards in the aquatic environment; prevent beach-users from getting into trouble by actively supervising at the water's edge; having the fitness and skills necessary to effect a rescue efficiently and if necessary apply first class resuscitation skills to improve a patient's chance of survival.

Sadly, these four accepted principles of ocean lifeguarding; that of prevention, recognition, rescue and resuscitation are lacking from Phuket beachguards and their overall lack of professionalism is why they are regarded by many locals in Phuket as something of a joke. Presently they are beachguards and have not earned the title ''lifeguard''.

Phuket currently has a group of lifeguards trained to Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard standards. These guards formed The Phuket Lifeguard Club in 2003 and voluntarily train Thai people in surf awareness and resuscitation skills. It is this group that is behind the children's water safety days held around Phuket since 2008 and the staging of Surf Carnivals at Loma Park.

The expertise to effectively manage the bathing public can be seen daily at Relax Bay aka Karon Noi where Le Meridien employed lifeguards run a safe, open beach on days when all other public beaches are closed with red flags. When the Le Meridien lifeguards close the beach it is only after a careful assessment of risk as per their training and standard operating procedures.

I am saying that the necessary expertise already exists in Phuket to manage beaches safely but what needs to happen is for the authorities to request this expertise to provide a satisfactory lifeguard service for Phuket's public beaches. The cost of drowning deaths to foreigners and Thais alike far outweighs the cost of implementing such an initiative.

As a quick example, the current chaos of Patong could be improved greatly with the provision of, say, three safe swimming areas identified daily by trained lifeguards. Swimmers would be managed into these safe swimming areas by the lifeguards who would intervene when people entered the water outside the designated safe areas.

Jet skis, board riders and parasailing would have designated areas separated from the swimming areas. When surf conditions were considered too dangerous by the chief lifeguard, the red flags would go up and the beach would be closed until conditions improved, with a change in tide or wind or waves.

Clearly identifiable swimming areas with clearly identifiable lifeguards would promote a culture of respect and safety. 100 years of surf lifesaving in Australia has taught hard lessons about the need for professional, highly trained personnel managing beaches for the benefit of the public.

The experience of those 100 years already exists in members of the Phuket Lifeguard Club trained to the Australian standard - please make use of it.

Phuket Drownings Rile Fans of World's No.4 Beach
Latest Karon rates No. 4 on a world list of ''Top 10 Beach Holidays for Families'' but it's also right up there when it comes to drownings, too. A critic lashes Phuket's lifeguard system.
Phuket Drownings Rile Fans of World's No.4 Beach

Italian Tourist Drowns at Patong: Beach Closure Call
Drowning Toll Rises Another tourist has drowned at Patong, latest victim an Italian who was having a final swim with friends before flying to Samui today. Should beaches be closed?
Italian Tourist Drowns at Patong: Beach Closure Call

Phuket Drownings: Which Beach is the Safest?
Latest Lifeguards and an accelerated training program are just part of what Phuket needs to make its beaches safe during the monsoon summer season especially.
Phuket Drownings: Which Beach is the Safest?

Comments

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Good advice David, thank you.
How can anyone take red flags seriously if they fly all the time?

Posted by Philip on August 17, 2009 15:31

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Great advice David, regretfully those in charge will not be interested.

Posted by wm on August 17, 2009 18:41

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Yes I trained with David and he is right. Phuket needs an overall maritime strategy as regards maritime safety not just with swimming with speedboats, dive boats jet ski's all dangerous and all have cost lives through improper usage and management

Posted by michael on August 29, 2009 20:41

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I know this article is old, and maybe know one will read this. But it was my father that drowned that day. And its a lie, that they got warned. My brother told me so, and he would not lie about this.
Whats making me most angry is, that my brother swam to the cost for help, but no lifeguard would come for the rescue. So he tried to go get him by him self, but got hold back, and when they drag him in, it was my Emil how gave him mouth to mouth. The lifeguard said "you do it" meanwhile some of the people gathering around them started laughing, when he puke. It makes me sick, the way they want to cover their own back!

Posted by Jonas on May 14, 2013 06:18

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Jonas, I am sorry for your the loss of your dad.
Seems that our shores are once agian without lifesavers. I don't know which is worse, paying lifesavers to be there on the beach and watching them not rescue people, or just know that there are no lifesavers and you're on your own. R I P for your dad and condolences to the family.

Posted by Robin on May 14, 2013 11:53

Editor Comment:

The contract for lifeguards remains in place until May 27 and it may be that the lifeguards stay on the beaches. Headlines implying that Phuket's beaches are currently unprotected are untrue.

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Thank you Robin.

Posted by Jonas on May 15, 2013 07:03


Tuesday October 27, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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