Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences
rip currents, hazard education, rip forecasts
Rip currents pose a major global beach hazard; estimates of annual rip-current-related deaths in the United States alone range from 35 to 100 per year. Despite increased social research into beach-goer experience, little is known about levels of rip current knowledge within the general population. This study describes the results of an online survey to determine the extent of rip current knowledge across the United States, with the aim of improving and enhancing existing beach safety education material. Results suggest that the US-based “Break the Grip of the Rip!”® campaign has been successful in educating the public about rip current safety directly or indirectly, with the majority of respondents able to provide an accurate description of how to escape a rip current. However, the success of the campaign is limited by discrepancies between personal observations at the beach and rip forecasts that are broadcasted for a large area and time. It was the infrequent beach user that identified the largest discrepancies between the forecast and their observations. Since infrequent beach users also do not seek out lifeguards or take the same precautions as frequent beach users, it is argued that they are also at greatest risk of being caught in a dangerous situation. Results of this study suggest a need for the national campaign to provide greater focus on locally specific and verified rip forecasts and signage in coordination with lifeguards, but not at the expense of the successful national awareness program.
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Houser, Chris; Trimble, Sarah; Brander, Robert; Brewster, B. Chris; Dusek, Greg; Jones, Deborah; and Kuhn, John. (2017). Public perceptions of a rip current hazard education program: “Break the Grip of the Rip!”. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 17 (7), 1003-1024.