East Hawaii News

New Airport Signage Hoped to Aid in Saving Lives

April 25, 2016, 12:27 PM HST
* Updated April 25, 1:58 PM
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DOH courtesy image.

DOH courtesy image.

A new initiative kicking off at major airports across the state is anticipated to help save lives.

Life-saving advice on ocean safety and drowning prevention is hoped to resonate with visitors to the Aloha state and residents alike when they arrive at island airports and are greeted with large-scale posters at airport baggage claims that direct them to the Hawai’i Beach Safety website, which provides real-time conditions at all beaches in Hawai’i that have a lifeguard.

The initiative kicked off through a partnership between the Hawai’i Department of Health, the state’s counties, the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, the Department of Transportation, and the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

DOH officials say that ocean drowning is the leading cause of fatal injuries to those visiting Hawai’i. Among visitors, the likelihood of drowning is eight times higher within the visitor population, per capita, that Hawai’i residents.

“These new posters at Hawai’i airports are part of the collaborative efforts of the Hawai’i Drowning and Aquatic Injury Prevention Advisory Committee,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “Drowning is a major public health issue in our island state, and building awareness about ocean safety among our visitors and residents is absolutely necessary.”

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A recent survey conducted by the HTA and DOH indicated that 97 percent of English-speaking visitors went to a beach while in Hawai’i, and about half visited beaches at least four or more times during their stay. About two out of three, or 65 percent, of the 1,275 surveyed visitors said it was “very important” (36 percent) or “somewhat important” (28 percent) to have lifeguards present at the beaches they visited. The majority of respondents reported the presence of lifeguards makes them feel safer at the beach.

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Only three percent of those surveyed said they were aware of the Hawai’i Lifeguard Association’s sponsored website for beach safety.

“The posters have been strategically placed near baggage claims that residents and visitors alike will notice them while they are waiting for their luggage and gain valuable information before they head to the beach,” said Department of Transportation Director Ford Fuchigami. “Keeping people safe is a shared responsibility and we are happy to provide the space at our airports for the posters.”

On the website, visitors and residents will find wind, wave, and other data, as well as a hazard rating to assist in making informed decisions of injury risk.

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“Hawai’i’s lifeguards are the world’s best at keeping people safe when enjoying the ocean,” said George Szigeti, President and CEO of the Hawai’i Tourism Authority. “The safety and welfare of Hawai’i’s residents and visitors is always the top priority. We urge everyone to always use lifeguarded beaches and be informed about ocean conditions before entering the water, and the website will provide this information.”

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