Vital safety advice is being carved into the sand on Cornish beaches this summer to raise awareness of risks and help reduce drowning.
As part of a summer-long trial, the high impact sand art is being used to highlight the locations of dangerous rip currents and to encourage people to swim between the red and yellow flags, which are patrolled by RNLI lifeguards.
The sand signage is also being used to highlight what time beachgoers need to return before they get cut off by the tide.
The idea was developed by David Revell of south-west based design consultancy Imagemakers in response to a challenge set by the RNLI as part of its Design Out Drowning programme. The programme challenged designers and communities to explore how to reduce coastal drowning in Devon and Cornwall by rethinking how and where safety messages and drowning prevention interventions are deployed.
David said: ‘The concept is simple: to create signs in the sand that could direct beach users to either the safest part of the sea or inform them of potential risks and how to avoid them.
‘As we developed the idea, we were considering how to make safety messaging simple, less hassle, more intuitive, timely and a little unusual in order to attract attention. We looked at existing precedents for this type of message delivery, finding examples in art, marketing and sports.
‘Because the beach art might be unexpected and unusual to encounter, we hope that it will capture beachgoers’ attention and act as a timely reminder to consider safety as they arrive at the beach.’
The sand signage will be trialled at Bedruthan Steps near Newquay, Watergate Bay and Perranporth. The project’s success in changing beach users’ behaviour will be monitored before the lifesaving charity can assess its potential to be rolled out to other locations in the future.
Steve Instance, RNLI Community Safety Manager for the south-west, said: ‘Last year, 25 people lost their lives on the coast in the south-west. Too many people are getting cut off by tides or being caught out in rip currents, so we’re exploring new ways of raising awareness of these dangers.
‘The sand signage concept carries great impact and we hope will help alert people to the risks that are present at that beach. We’re absolutely committed to reducing the number of people who drown around the coast and this is a new concept that could help achieve that.
‘While we are still very much in the early stages of trialling the sand signage, the initial tests have been well received and certainly captured people’s attention.
‘We’ll continue testing throughout the summer and perfecting its installation while exploring how it could be rolled out to other locations.’
Last year, RNLI lifeboat crews launched 8,964 times, aiding 9,412 people, while the charity’s lifeguards attended 19,449 incidents and aided 32,207 people.
RNLI lifeguards attended 979 incidents where people were caught in rip currents and 804 incidents of people being cut off by the tide in 2018. These were the two most common causes of incidents attended by the charity’s lifeguards.