Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Need for consistent beach lifeguard data collection: results from an international survey
  1. William Koon1,2,
  2. Andrew Schmidt2,3,4,
  3. Ana Catarina Queiroga2,5,
  4. Justin Sempsrott2,4,
  5. David Szpilman2,6,
  6. Jonathon Webber2,7,
  7. Robert Brander1,2
  1. 1 School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 International Drowning Researchers’ Alliance, Kuna, Idaho, USA
  3. 3 Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine—Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida, USA
  4. 4 Lifeguards Without Borders, Kuna, Idaho, USA
  5. 5 EPIUnit, Universidade do Porto Instituto de Saúde Pública, Porto, Portugal
  6. 6 Brazilian Lifesaving Society—SOBRASA, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  7. 7 Surf Lifesaving New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to William Koon, University of New South Wales School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia; w.koon{at}


Background Lifeguards are integral to beach safety and collect data which is used for a variety of purposes, although guidelines and best practice have yet to be established. This study served to identify and characterise existing beach lifeguard service provider (BLSP) data collection procedures in order to identify the degree of uniformity and areas for improvement.

Methods The ‘International Beach Lifeguard Data Collection and Reporting’ online survey was distributed via the International Drowning Researchers’ Alliance to BLSP supervisors and managers. The survey included questions on beach conditions and lifeguard activity data collection practices, and respondent’s opinions on their own BLSP’s methods.

Results Variability in data collection practices was evident in surveys obtained from 55 lifeguard leaders in 12 countries. Discrepancies exist in definitions for ‘rescue’ among BLSPs, a significant amount of information related to beach conditions are recorded and beach visitation is primarily obtained by visual estimate. Respondents expressed challenges with getting frontline staff to collect information in the field and ensuring reporting consistency between recorders. They identified rescue victim demographic factors as key data they would like to collect in the future.

Conclusions Inconsistencies in lifeguard data collection present challenges to operations, safety education and prevention efforts, research and policy relying on these data. Variation in definitions, methods and collected variables generally restricts analysis to a single BLSP with limited generalisability to other beach settings. Some gaps in lifeguard data collection may soon be addressed by technology, but developing uniform, internationally acceptable standards and definitions should be prioritised.

  • drowning
  • surveillance
  • surveys

Data availability statement

No data are available. Participants of this study did not agree for their data to be shared publicly, so supporting data are not available.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Data availability statement

No data are available. Participants of this study did not agree for their data to be shared publicly, so supporting data are not available.

View Full Text


  • Twitter @w_a_koon, @drowning, @aquasafenz

  • Presented at Results from this research were presented at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention, Durban, South Africa 2019.

  • Contributors WK and RB led study conceptualisation and survey development with input from AS, ACQ, JS, DS and JW. WK, RB and AS were involved in data analysis. WK and RB drafted the paper. AS, ACQ, JS, DS and JW reviewed it, suggested changes and approved the final document.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.