Rip Currents are some of the most dangerous beach hazards, accounting for 80% of all water rescues and causing over 100 drownings each year in the United States. Students and Scientists at the Stevens Institute of Technology have created a multi-platform smartphone app that helps lifeguards identify and catalog rip current occurrences. This information not only increases the scientific community’s knowledge and understanding of rip currents for better predictions in the future, but it also helps lifeguards keep beachgoers safe all summer long.
It is a fairly simple app to operate. A lifeguard travels along the beach and stops when he or she identifies a rip current. The location is recorded using the phone’s GPS, and the lifeguard inputs approximate size, strength, and proximity to a structure of the current. The app uses Google Maps to display some basic information about the coastal waters and also all the reported rip currents in the past 24 hours. It also pulls relevant related data from NOAA databases regarding wave height and tidal currents.
The New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium (NJSGC) has already implemented the app in some coastal communities in New Jersey and hopes to expand its use and keep swimmers even safer on their beaches.