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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2018-143
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 25 Jun 2018

Research article | 25 Jun 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Rip current rescues and drowning in the United States

B. Chris Brewster1, Richard E. Gould1, and Robert W. Brander2 B. Chris Brewster et al.
  • 1United States Lifesaving Association, P.O. Box 366, Huntington Beach, California 92648
  • 2School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW Australia 2052

Abstract. Rip currents are the greatest hazard to swimmers on surf beaches, but due to a lack of consistent incident reporting in many countries, it is often difficult to quantify the number of rip current related rescues and drowning deaths occurring along surf beaches. This study uses rescue data reported to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) by surf beach lifeguards from 1997 through 2016 to provide an estimate of rip current related rescues in the United States. Results show that rip currents are the primary cause of 81.9% of rescues on surf beaches, with regional variation from 75.3% (East Coast) to 84.7% (West Coast). These values are significantly higher than those previously reported in the scientific literature. Using this value as a proxy when examining overall surf beach related drowning fatalities, it is suggested that an annual figure of 100 fatal drownings per year due to rip currents in the United States is possibly an under-estimate. However, it is clear that the United States data would benefit by an increase in the number of lifeguard agencies which report surf related rescues by primary cause.

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Short summary
Rip currents are the greatest hazard to swimmers on surf beaches, but due to a lack of consistent incident reporting in many countries, it is often difficult to quantify the number of rip current related rescues and drowning deaths occurring along surf beaches. This study uses rescue data reported to the United States Lifesaving Association by surf beach lifeguards from 1997 through 2016 to provide an estimate of rip current related rescues in the United States.
Rip currents are the greatest hazard to swimmers on surf beaches, but due to a lack of...
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