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Sign Shines Light on Surf Dangers

By Duncan Horscroft on May 28, 2019 in News

Danger, danger… high voltage! by Jason McCormack.

What started as a final year school project is now being touted as a potential life saving warning device that alerts people to the dangers of swimming in the surf and other unpatrolled waterways.
19 year-old local Jackson Harrigan submitted the project in his final year at Cranbrook in 2018 and is now focusing full time on his Ocean Live electronic sign board.
As a regular surfer at Bondi Beach, Mr Harrigan became concerned at how many beachgoers were getting into difficulty in the surf simply by ignoring the warning signs.
His initial design features a traffic light-style board with red and amber lights highlighting the dangers of rips, sharks, sand banks and UV intensity.
“Rips are the most challenging warning,” Mr Harrigan told The Beast. “Consulting with Dr Rob Brander we know that the majority of rips will occur on the outgoing tide three hours prior to low tide and two hours after.”
“So the live warning for rips is on a high probability that rips will occur at that time and during that time our light is flashing red.”
“Post data analysis shows that the Ocean Live system would have been flashing red for rips for the last eight drownings in every state.”
Mr Harrigan explained that the data can be transferred to LED message boards and websites, and that they were in talks with Waverley and Ballina Councils about uploading data to their websites.
Prior to the initial launch of Ocean Live at Bronte Beach in late April, Mr Harrigan took the system to beaches on the NSW far north coast and Queensland and has only just returned from giving demonstrations in Coffs Harbour.
Mr Harrigan said that one of the main objectives of the electronic signage was to gain beachgoers’ attention.
“It had to be simple but effective, and also have an international understanding,” he said.
“In the trials we conducted, one in three people stopped and looked at the display, and in just over an hour we noticed no one stopped and took notice of the current beach signage.”
“We have had feedback from councils around individual stand-alone warnings for rips or sharks, whether the beach is open or closed, and a bluebottle warning with a single light flashing was also mentioned.”
The device uses new technology that runs on 12-volt power and can also be solar charged. It requires an internet connection. Mr Harrigan said the advantages of the low-power system are its mobility and ease of positioning in remote areas.
“We envisage that the system can be placed on concrete, sand, installed on a trailer or mounted on lifeguard huts,” he said.
As well as working on a multi-lingual display, Mr Harrigan said there will be a phone app available that will allow lifeguards and lifesavers to update conditions regularly.