Researching rip currents
Alexandra Scaman distributing online survey to Islanders about this potentially deadly hazard
A University of Windsor student is working to make Islanders, and Canadians in general, safer on the beach.
Alexandra Scaman, a fourth year student at the university, spent most of her summers growing up on P.E.I. with her family.
For the past year, Scaman has been involved in a university project RipCuRe (Rip Current Undergraduate Research).
The project has been headed by science dean Chris Houser and has involved Scaman distributing a survey to collect data for her undergraduate thesis concerning rip currents on Canadian beaches.
She’s now reaching out to Islanders to fill out the survey and give their perspective with the hopes of ultimately increasing beach safety.
“After spending my summers here, we’ve all heard of rip currents on the beaches or know somebody who got caught in a rip current,” said Scaman, who is also working on a minor in media communications.
“I’ve been looking at the most effective ways to warn people of a rip current hazard.”
Getting caught in a rip current can potentially be fatal.
Islanders and tourists got a tragic reminder of the potential dangers this weekend, with a 52-year-old New Brunswick man drowning near St. Margarets.
Scaman said while P.E.I. lifeguards do an excellent job of keeping swimmers safe, there is simply too much beach and coastal area for the whole province to be covered.
Instead, Scaman is hoping to find the most effective way of warning individuals of rip currents.
“Not everyone responds to a warning in the same way. For example, things like your age, your gender and even the previous amount of rip current knowledge you had prior to going to the beach will affect how you interpret a rip current warning,” she said. “Because of this, not everyone is equally susceptible of being caught in a rip current.”
For example, Scaman said young males between the ages of 18 and 24 years are the most likely to get caught. While her research results are still preliminary, Scaman said she has found younger age groups prefer receiving rip current warnings through social media or on weather site apps.
“I think in the age of technology, warnings aren’t just limited to flags or signs on a beach,” said Scaman. “There’s so many new ways to distribute information to people so it’s interesting to look at what is most effective.”
Scaman said she has reached out to Holland College about distributing her survey and that all Islanders are invited to take part.
She also noted that her goal is not to scare individuals from going to the beach.
“I realize how special (the tourism industry) is to P.E.I. and they don’t want people being scared of rip currents on the beach,” said Scaman. “At the same time, if you’re being safe and know what to look for… it’s all about avoidance in the first place.”
University of Windsor student Alexandra Scaman looks over her laptop while in a coastal area of Charlottetown this past weekend. Scaman is currently researching rip currents for her undergraduate thesis, with hopes of improving the safety of beach-goers across Canada.