Beach safety took a serious step forward this week as the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation office for Phuket in collaboration with the Phuket Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) conducted a Phuket Beach Safety Workshop at the Tree House K PARK Phuket hotel in Phuket Town.
Phuket Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai presided over the event, which featured a variety of speakers on the topic of beach safety, including the Australian Consul-General to Phuket Matthew Barclay along with representatives from Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Phuket Hotel Association, the Department of Tourism and Sport and lifeguard representatives.
Invited guests included a cross-section of representatives from the Earth Observatory of Singapore, the Chinese Consulate, Prince of Songkla University, Thai Southern Hotel Association, Phuket government agencies, Vachira Phuket Hospital, educational institutions and private stakeholders.
The guest speaker was Dr Rob Brander, Professor and Deputy Head of School at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES), at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
Dr Brander is a renowned researcher and expert on rip currents, and his presentation highlighted potential swimmer dangers and solutions used in other parts of the world. He is an international leader in conducting scientific research related to beach safety and hazards and is involved in global beach safety education.
His previous visit to Thailand in 2014 alerted him to the severity of the drowning problem on Phuket beaches.
However, he noted at the event in Phuket this week that while research has been conducted on beach safety and hazards in countries like Australia and the United States, no study has yet examined the nature of beach hazards and the behaviour and knowledge of beachgoers in relation to these beach hazards in Southeast Asia.
The workshop focused on the specific issues Phuket faces with regard to beach safety and preventing drowning incidents. Workshop participants acknowledged provision of high quality lifeguard services is an integral part of beach safety. They also agreed in the importance of conducting research and using statistics to guide the planning and provision of future beach safety management plans and resources.
The workshop supported future research in 2020 led by Dr Brander in conjunction with local institutions and government organizations as a sound way to gather data to identify beach safety issues for tourists, the hospitality sector and the community.
Research and the information it will yield, will benefit the local community in Phuket, tourists and visitors to Phuket and directly impact planning and budgeting for comprehensive swimmer safety in the future, he said.
“It was great to see so much widespread interest in the Phuket Beach Safety Workshop and agreement on the challenges and ways forward for making visitors safer on Phuket beaches,” Dr Brander said.
“Some important collaborations were made with positive outcomes for future evidence-based research that will improve understanding of Phuket beach users knowledge of hazards and safety management. This will help the development and implementation of beach safety management in Phuket in the future.
“The workshop was important and successful as it brought together a variety of individuals and organisations who are all passionate about working together to provide collaborative and consistent approaches to improving Phuket beach safety,” he added.
The Phuket Disaster Resilience Foundation, which was instrumental in organising the workshop, has been set up to enhance Phuket’s resilience to disasters. The foundation serves as an institutional platform and catalyst for government agencies, private sector organisations, NGOs and academia to jointly develop and implement collaborative projects on disaster risk mitigation and preparedness for the benefit of Phuket’s residents, communities and visitors. (See www.phuketresilience.org).
The Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) is Singapore’s main hub for conducting research on geohazards, focusing on tectonics, volcanoes, and climate change in and around Southeast Asia. The Observatory is committed to acquiring knowledge of these natural hazards, passing this information on to affected communities by contributing to forecasts of such natural phenomena and taking action on disaster risk mitigation and preparedness. EOS is an autonomous institute of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and located on the campus of the University in Singapore. (See www.earthobservatory.sg)
Experts from the EOS, along with the Phuket Disaster Resilience Foundation, held a special workshop in Phuket in 2017 to review the island’s preparedness in responding to disasters, including tsunamis, and offered suggestions in how to improve disaster-response measures.
The project, “Building Community-Level Disaster Awareness – School Outreach Project” held at the Srinagarindra The Princess Mother School in Phuket, also saw students from across Phuket taking part learn about how earthquakes and tsunamis are created and how to respond if one occurs. (See story here.)
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