Establishment of coastal lifeguard services in Pakistan; the PALS experience

TitleEstablishment of coastal lifeguard services in Pakistan; the PALS experience
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsDr Webber, DProf, J
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers01-21
Abstract

­Context: The World Health Organisation estimates that 97% of all unintentional drownings occur in low to middle income countries (Peden et al, 2002). In developing nations the burden of fatal and non-fatal drowning is underreported due to unreliable and missing data. With more than 15 million inhabitants, Karachi is one of the most populous cities in the world. The coastline of Karachi extends some 40km along the southern border of Pakistan on the Arabian Sea and its’ beaches are visited by 2 million people every year. Prior to July of 2004, the annual drowning toll stood at over 250 a year.

Project/Partners: To address this significant problem Pakistan Aquatic Life Saving (PALS), a division of ‘Critical Mass Social Welfare’ organisation was formed with the intent of establishing a professional lifeguard service in Karachi. The strategic intent of PALS was twofold; to achieve a “near-zero” drowning rate and alleviate poverty through the employment of lifeguards. An offer of assistance was made by Surf Life Saving Northern Region (New Zealand) for the initial training and certification of lifeguards, supply of expert advice, set-up equipment and ongoing support over a 3-year period. The first training mission undertaken by SLSNR in 2004 saw 150 candidates achieve New Zealand Surf Lifeguard Award (Bronze Medallion) and Surf Life Saving Certificate status. Although an independent non-government organisation, PALS works closely with the City Government of Karachi and the Pakistan Navy. In 2004, PALS was granted associate membership of the International Life Saving Federation.

Results and Discussion: Since commencing patrols, PALS Lifeguards have reduced the annual drowning toll at Karachi beaches to around 15 a year. A total of 1,102 rescues, 249,673 preventative actions, 1,816 first aids and 162 searches have been performed. In 2006 the inaugural national lifeguard championships were held and all lifeguards undertook proficiency testing to revalidate their qualifications. Future plans include: Establishing a beach education programme in schools, creating and maintaining a national drowning database, expansion of local services, the training and supply of lifeguards to commercial offshore operators in the Middle East and developing a more secure funding base for the ongoing provision of aquatic safety services in Pakistan.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Understand the magnitude of drowning as a public health issue in Karachi prior to PALS Lifeguards commencing beach patrols
  2. Recognise the need for a structured, incremental approach to establishing new lifesaving services
  3. Identify means by which established lifesaving organisation can provide support to new ones.
Annexes

Figure 1. PALS Rescue Data (2005)

2005

Rescues

Preventive
Actions

First Aid
Treatments

Searches
Missing Children

Tube Rescues, Swim Rescues
IRB Rescues, Board Rescues

Male

Female

Child

Total

Jan

0

2

1

3

1,257

41

3

Feb

3

0

5

8

2,361

28

5

Mar

9

5

6

20

7,894

47

4

Apr

7

2

8

17

9,547

88

7

May

25

9

13

47

9,898

78

8

Jun

68

18

35

96

11,457

96

12

Jul

66

12

25

103

12,547

115

11

Aug

45

16

25

86

13,781

104

14

Sep

7

3

8

18

8,974

78

8

Oct

12

8

5

25

6,984

36

4

Nov

2

0

1

3

2,365

32

2

Dec

1

1

0

2

1,480

45

0

 

 

 

 

428

88,545

788

78

Coastal Drownings in 2005:

13

 

 

 

 

Figure 2.  PALS Rescue Data (2006)

2006

Rescues

Preventive
Actions

First Aid
Treatments

Searches
Missing Children

Tube Rescues, Swim Rescues
IRB Rescues, Board Rescues

Male

Female

Child

Total

Jan

3

5

7

15

1,896

18

1

Feb

2

1

3

6

3,954

36

0

Mar

2

4

8

14

6,987

45

5

Apr

8

0

6

14

8,761

39

3

May

26

16

12

58

9,651

84

9

Jun

47

27

22

96

11,654

72

12

Jul

78

19

38

102

15,698

115

13

Aug

55

15

12

82

16,214

89

11

Sep

7

2

6

15

8,954

54

5

Oct

6

8

12

26

5,473

49

3

Nov

2

6

3

11

2,365

58

1

Dec

1

0

1

2

1,646

23

1

 

 

 

 

441

93,253

682

64

Coastal Drownings in 2006:

17

 

 

 

 

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