Volume 1 2012

Sea Grant Education

Survey Reveals Lack of Knowledge About Dangers of Rip Currents

Visitors’ lack of concern about health hazards at Milwaukee beaches is a wake-up call.

Visitors to Milwaukee-area beaches want to use the Web to get real-time weather reports before hitting the sandy shores. They also don’t know much about rip currents and aren’t deterred by how healthy their beach may—or may not—be.

So say the results of a survey of beachgoers at five popular Milwaukee County beaches by Gene Clark, Wisconsin Sea Grant coastal engineering outreach specialist.

Last August, Project Specialist Kim Smith surveyed 223 beach visitors to gauge what type of beach information they’d want to know and use, as well as the places they’d most like to access it.

Visitors’ desire to receive their information electronically was not a surprise to Smith and Clark. Beachgoers’ lack of awareness and concern about rip currents and the environmental health of the beaches was.

“People told us that beach health test results would make very little difference in their decision to visit a beach or not,” said Clark. “The results also make it clear that few people know much about rip currents at all. Truthfully, it was kind of a ‘wow’ moment for us.”

To Clark, beachgoers’ lack of rip current knowledge is a big wake-up call.

“It’s telling us that putting up signs to warn people and doing radio interviews to educate them aren’t enough,” said Clark.

“We have to do more.”

Clark hopes the survey results will provide momentum for efforts to develop a beach-specific website and/or apps that could gather and automatic distribute daily real-time updates about beaches and water conditions in a manner users could easily access.

The survey was funded by a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant that also includes Minnesota and Michigan Sea Grant.



The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

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