New public service announcements warn visitors of the dangers of the ocean

Saving a life in just 25 seconds.

It’s a simple safety message lifeguards are taking to visitors.

Four public service announcements have been playing since last month in 25,000 hotel rooms on Oahu.

They cover separate topics: the dangers of snorkeling alone, taking selfies near shorelines, swimming in unguarded beaches, and making smart decisions at the beach.

“We have an opportunity to reach out to the millions of visitors coming to our state every year and provide them with very simple safety messages to help them have the best day possible while they’re here in our state of Hawaii,” said Jim Howe, director of the city Department of Emergency Services.

Dozens of people die while swimming or snorkeling every year.

Last year in Hawaii, there were more than 70 ocean drownings. Forty-three of those were visitors.

Bridget Velasco, the state’s drowning and spinal cord injury prevention coordinator, says unique to Hawaii is the number of spinal cord injuries that happen in the ocean.

“The majority of the spinal cord injuries, which can range from anything as basic as pain and weakness temporarily all the way to permanent paralysis and even death, occur primarily to our visitors. Around 80 percent of those injuries occur to our visitors,” Velasco said.

So far this year, there have been 32 drownings statewide, with Maui seeing the most drownings at 17.

Kevin Allen with Oahu’s Ocean Safety Division says the goal of the new ads is to keep visitors safe and informed.

“It’s important not just for visitors, but for residents to understand when it comes to our beaches that they should take some time and look at the conditions before they jump in the water. Make sure that it’s something they can handle at their level,” Allen said.

For now, the ads are only running on Oahu, but could be expanded to the neighbor islands.

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