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A simply sign like this one from a Goa hotel could save lives

Phuket Water Safety Summit Urged: Drowning Toll Threatens 'Safe' Image

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
PHUKET: A water safety expert on Phuket has called for a summit to plan community action to curtail the alarming number of drownings on the beach holiday island.

Commitment from authorities and resorts is needed to prevent tourists tagging Phuket as an unsafe no-go destination at dangerous times of the year.

Latest statistics from Phuket police show that at least 20 tourists or expats have drowned in the Phuket region so far this year. That's a conservative number. The real toll is higher.

David Field, who leads lifeguard training each year on Phuket and who has driven improvements in standards, says it's now time for a water safety summit.

''Big resorts need to do more to support beach safety,'' he said. ''Four years ago I submitted a beach management plan and equipment list to major resorts on Karon on behalf of Phuket Lifeguard Club but I never received a response.''

Phuketwan has surveyed smaller resorts and many just don't appear to care whether their guests live or die - as long as they die outside the resort.

The attitude of the resorts is what needs to change. Phuket's reputation as a relatively safe destination will be destroyed if attitudes don't change.

More people are coming as tourists to Phuket, and more of them are people who do not understand the dangers in the water.

Phuket Governor Maitree Intrusud, fresh from a series of seminars designed to improve the service of Phuket's taxi, tuk-tuk and jet-ski operators, is likely to support a commitment program to water safety for resorts.

To have guests arriving at Phuket's beachfront resorts with nothing being said to them about dangers at the beach leaves the management of many Phuket resorts exposed as uncaring.

Once the guests reach the beach on dangerous days, it's too late.

Mr Field wants warnings to begin at Phuket's airport and continue as people check in at resorts, both large and small. Lifeguard training is one part of it.

''Management staff at resorts move on and new managers do not realise the lifeguard training exists,'' he said.

''Where managers change resorts they continue to support the training program from their new hotel - Marriott staff have been training with me. Outrigger and the Laguna properties are very supportive. Centara Grand at Karon are good, too.''

Simple signage in foyer entrances on dangerous days would save lives.

And a Phuketwan reader suggests that Phuket's tsunami warning speakers could be used to sound a short warning each hour in English, Russian, Korean, and Chinese on unsafe days.

But mostly, it's the negligent resorts that need to follow the good example set by the best ones.

Le Meridien Phuket, for example, has become the home of lifeguard training and has not recorded a drowning in 12 years.

''The trauma being done to lifeguards dealing with the drownings is a concern to me,'' Mr Field said.

''The recent death of the 61-year-old surfer at Kata who collapsed in the water some time after assisting with rescues may have been a heart attack or other reason but lifeguards felt the patient was recoverable.

''However, the ambulance took 40 minutes to arrive.''

Mr Field said beach management practices of the lifeguards are improving but they lack world-class equipment.

''Loud hailers and quad bikes with a PA system would help on Karon,'' he said. ''Amplified announcements for people not to enter the water are effective, given from a properly equipped quad bike.''

Mr Field says the Surf Life Saving Association aims to send voluntary trainers to Phuket from October, defibrillators can now be legally used by non-doctors, and signange is much improved.

''I am optimistic that the willingness to continue to improve beach safety is evident,'' he said. ''Much has been achieved although we sometimes feel despondent when drownings continue to occur.''

The next step: a safety summit to bring the resorts on board to create a drowning-free future for Phuket, and save their reputations.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


When did the ruling regarding the use of defibrillators by non-doctors come in to effect. In the past there have been suggestions of businesses paying for these to be placed in strategic locations such as Soi Bangla as rapid use of these can greatly increase the chances of survival in instances of heart attack or similar. This has not been implemented as use of them would be have been a criminal offence.

They would also greatly assist the lifeguards in their efforts.

Is the change in the law just for Defibrillators or the more common AEDs that can be used easily by the general public by following the simple instructions on them?

Posted by richard on August 20, 2013 11:57


The dangerous sea conditions threatens tourists lives and should be addressed as a primary concern, here it seems as the Image of Phuket is the main concern and thus they will have to do something about it.....First sort out the priorities then there is a chance that something useful will actually happen.

Posted by Sailor on August 20, 2013 13:08


Phuketwan has surveyed smaller resorts and many just don't appear to care whether their guests live or die - as long as they die outside the resort.
(insert) and they have paid up front

Posted by slickmelb on August 20, 2013 19:28

Friday June 21, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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