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La Cala de los Alemanes, in Tarifa (Cadiz province). Turismo de Cádiz
'Zero Drownings' campaign rolled out to help prevent tragedies in the seas, swimming pools and natural bathing spots of Andalucía
Water safety

'Zero Drownings' campaign rolled out to help prevent tragedies in the seas, swimming pools and natural bathing spots of Andalucía

The regional government is using the latest technology to improve the safety of those taking to the waters, in a bid to reduce the 72 deaths recorded last year

Javier Rodríguez

Cadiz

Wednesday, 3 July 2024, 13:33

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A peaceful summer without any drownings to report - we can but hope, or we can take action. This Monday, in Cadiz province, Andalucía's regional government presented their action plan for this summer to prevent accidents during the summer holidays in the region.

The Regional Minister of the Presidency (Andalucía's representative to Spain's central government), Antonio Sanz, was in charge of presenting the latest features of this new action plan, which is aimed at accident prevention and information to improve public safety. Sanz was accompanied by the Deputy Minister of the Interior Tomás Burgos, Secretary General of the Interior David Gil, and by the nine delegates of the Junta who represent the provinces, including Campo de Gibraltar, as well as the directors of the main emergency and 112 calling services.

Sanz stressed that Monday's meeting in Cadiz with the other authorities was just the preamble to the rollout of this important action plan throughout Andalucía, starting this week precisely to coincide with the start of the school holidays and high season on the beaches. It is worth remembering that last year 72 people died in Andalucía as a result of drowning on beaches, in rivers, swimming pools and reservoirs. Now, with this action plan by the Junta, apart from the recommendations given in the plan, the aim is to end the summer with zero drownings. The key to this, according to the political leaders and emergency service specialists alike, is that the public are fully on board with this initiative, requiring their full collaboration and active participation.

Antonio Sanz during the presentation of the campaign in Cadiz. Nacho Frade

According to Antonio Sanz, "the Andalusian government is firmly committed to new technologies as a tool, to be always at the service of the public to encourage citizen participation in matters of safety and emergencies, providing them with the best and most effective information." Information updates can be consulted free of charge via the website and on any smartphone via the mobile application 'Catálogo General de Playas' (like a beach watch warning system). The new feature to this app is the appearance of a speaking virtual assistant that enables users to consult in real time the state of the beaches and their characteristics, flags and safety data for effective intervention and coordination in the event of emergency or civil protection services needing to attend an incident.

Latest information

The virtual assistant, created by the Digital Agency of Andalucía (part of the Junta), for this summer provides spoken responses on the location of first aid and emergency stations, lifeguard towers and nautical channels (the lanes marked with beacons where jetskis etc can safely launch from or return to shore without endangering swimmers). The assistant also takes the user to the beach or landmark they want to consult with a single click. "With this conversational virtual assistant we go a step further and, for those who have difficulties with technology, the conversational virtual assistant now makes it easier to access all the information about the beaches by spoken voice," said Antonio Sanz.

Sanz announced this new development together with the launch of the 'Zero Drowning' campaign, carried out by the 112 emergency coordination centre (Cecem) and now in its second year. "We must raise public awareness of the importance of prevention to avoid accidents and deaths in water this summer." The minister also stressed that the campaign "is once again committed to shock tactics, deemed very necessary because the aim is to reduce the number of deaths in water-based environments through vigilance, precaution and respect, especially with children and at times when there is no formal vigilance."

1,000 kilometres of coastline

Planning is always the best tool for saving lives and minimising injuries on a coastline as massive as Andalucía's - almost 1,000 kilometres of coastline and some 500 beaches. This is the second year in which the 62 Andalusian coastal municipalities have had their beach safety and rescue plans in place. Last year the beach was the place where the highest number of deaths was recorded, followed by rivers and swimming pools. In 2023, the 112 emergency call service coordinated a total of 390 rescues on beaches, in the sea, swimming pools and inland waters, 28% more than in 2022, when there were 304 rescues. So far this year there have been 101 rescues, 55 of them at beaches.

The 'Zero Drowning' publicity campaign will run via press, radio and television, as well as on social media. This awareness campaign focuses on being vigilant ( most drownings occur in places without lifeguards ), using caution and having respect for the water, as conditions can change, posing a danger regardless of whether on the beach, in a swimming pool or by a river.

In addition, 112 is making available an educational guide to prevent drownings and other accidents in all bathing areas, a document that is available for download on the website of the Regional Ministry of the Presidency, as well as through the QR codes on the promotional material of the 'Zero Drowning' campaign that will be distributed in coastal towns and cities.

Advanced mobile phone location

Antonio Sanz reminded everyone that the 112 service also has the Advanced Mobile Phone Location (AML) system to provide the exact coordinates of the person calling for help, as well as the 112 callback alert system that sends out an alert to any person registered to receive it in the event of a major emergency. His last words were to hope that "those Andalusians and tourists who faithfully choose our blessed land every year will enjoy the privileged natural environment of Andalucía's beaches and our inland delights with safety and full protection."

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