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Saving lives with signs in the sand

Signs carved into the sand are appearing on Cornish beaches to raise awareness of risks and help reduce drowning.

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Drawing lines in the sand. Photo: RNLI/Will Dax

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is trialling the sand signage over the summer period across three beaches in Cornwall: Bedruthan Steps near Newquay; Watergate Bay and Perranporth. It is hoped the striking nature of the signs will warn beachgoers of the dangers of the tide.

The idea was developed by David Revell, from design consultancy Imagemakers, in response to the RNLI’s Design Out Drowning programme.

The programme challenged designers and communities to explore how coastal drowning in Devon and Cornwall could be reduced.

Revell comments: “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.

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

“Because the beach art might be unexpected and unusual to encounter, we hope that it will capture beach goers’ attention and act as a timely reminder to consider safety as they arrive at the beach.”

In 2018, 25 people lost their lives on the coast in the south west. Steve Instance, RNLI community safety manager for the south west, comments: “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.”

Instance says the RNLI will continue testing the signage throughout the summer and exploring how it could be implicated in other locations.

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