Maui Visitor Safety Video Released

February 24, 2015, 4:17 PM HST · Updated December 4, 11:18 AM
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By Wendy Osher

A new ocean safety video debuted at Kahului Airport this month, with educational information, tips on venturing out into the water, and how to avoid dangerous situations.

The video comes as reports continue to surface of ocean rescues, water fatalities, and hiking accidents around the county.

Just last week, two Maui teens died in an ocean incident near Honokōhau Bay, and a 53-year-old visitor was found floating lifeless in Mākena.  Also last week, a New Jersey visitor was transported to the hospital in critical condition after being found floating face down in waters fronting the Kāʻanapali Beach Resort.

SPONSORED VIDEO

The video, sponsored by the Maui Visitor’s Bureau and the County of Maui Mayor’s Office, includes commentary from life guards, first responders, and firefighters, with narration by film star and Maui resident Branscombe Richmond.

The video advises visitors to check local weather and surf reports for high surf advisories, harbor surges, and flood warnings before going out.  Warning signs are also posted along shorelines that have a history of strong currents, dangerous shore breaks, and are prone to flooding or other natural hazards.

“Please, do not ignore the posted warning signs.  Read them and heed them,” said Firefighter III Lani Gomes in the video.

Matthew Mercado, Ocean Safety Officer. Maui County Ocean Safety Video 2015. Image grab from video, sponsored by the Maui Visitors Bureau and the County of Maui Mayor's Office, and produced by Maui County Film Commission. Filmmaker: Michael Fitzgerald.

Matthew Mercado, Ocean Safety Officer. Maui County Ocean Safety Video 2015. Image grab from video, sponsored by the Maui Visitors Bureau and the County of Maui Mayor’s Office, and produced by Maui County Film Commission. Filmmaker: Michael Fitzgerald.

WATER SAFETY TIPS: Some ocean safety tips that are highlighted include the following:

  • Don’t turn your back on the ocean: this can cause serious injuries to your neck and back.  Gomes advises that if you are in the water and a wave is approaching, dive under the wave instead of trying to jump over it.
  • What to do if you are stuck in a strong current: Swim with the current and never against it.  The video advises that swimming against the current will tire you out and put strain on your body.  It advises ocean goers to swim diagonally to the current, allowing their body to move with the tide.  This will often bring you back onto the shore, to an area slightly down the beach.
  • Paddle boards can drift on windy days: “It’s best to get as low as possible when paddling back in to create a smaller wind profile with your body,” said Gomes.
  • Snorkeling is strenuous: Although snorkeling is a popular tourist activity, it is a strenuous activity.  The video advises anyone with pre-existing health conditions to refrain from getting into the water.
  • Talk to lifeguards: Visitors are encouraged to speak to lifeguards at guarded beaches, who can provide information on current water conditions and safety tips to those venturing out.
  • Finally, “When in doubt, don’t go out.”
Rockfall warning sign at ʻĪao on Maui.

Rockfall warning sign at ʻĪao on Maui. Photo by Wendy Osher.

HIKING TIPS: In addition to ocean safety, visitors are also advised of safety conditions while hiking.  The following items were highlighted in the educational video:

  • Be aware of their surroundings: The video advises the hiking public to be mindful of the presence of rain clouds. “Have an exit plan in mind when going on hikes and exploring waterfalls and natural pools,” as flash flooding can happen within minutes.
  • Never cross fast flowing or rising water: The public is advised, “If you find yourself trapped by rising water, find the highest point possible, call for help, and most importantly, stay put.”
  • Before hiking: Always inform others where you plan to go. While hiking its a good idea to carry a flashlight, food and dry clothes; and wear sturdy footwear and bright clothing.
  • Guidebooks can be misleading: “When following the instruction of guidebooks, be mindful that some of these places are dangerous and are often on private property.”
  • Trails leading downslope can be slippery: “If you find yourself at the water’s edge and waves are breaking, be aware of the tide,” as it may change sweeping you or your belongings out to sea.

This video was produced by Maui County Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett and executed by filmmaker, Michael Fitzgerald.

Maui Visitors Bureau executive director Terryl Vencl tells Maui Now that the airport provides a captive audience and has the potential to make viewers pause and use caution when venturing out.

“We had discussions and felt that this video needed to be quick,” said Vencl of the six minute video.  “While we have some captive time in baggage claim, we don’t have forever. We needed something that will leave an imprint, cause them to pause and take caution when they go to the ocean, and remind them that its not like the man-made lakes on the mainland.”

Vencl said recent infrastructure upgrades at Kahului Airport, now enable the use of the screens and public address system. She said the video will also be airing on Paradise TV’s Visitor Channel.

The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority recently completed a more general safety video that was expected to be broadcast on airplanes in the islands.

According to Vencl, the visitor industry on Maui worked to provide the information via other outlets in the past.  “We have for many years tried to educate our travel agents, have safety tips in our 72-page planner, provide safety tips on maps and via a safety brochure that conjointly was put together with HTA at the vistor information center at the airport,” said Vencl.

“I think we now have a new means by which to alert people,” she said of the new video.  “With this new PA system and new screens in baggage claim, it is a good spot to capture at least five minutes of their time,” she said.

Ocean Incidents By the Numbers:

Below is a breakdown of drowning incidents in Hawaiian waters as referenced in the “Visitor Safety: How are we doing?” report compiled by Dan Galanis with the Injury Prevention and Control section at the state Department of Health.

According to the report, there were 16 spinal cord injuries at Mākena between 2009 and 2012; 5 at Kāʻanapali; 3 at Hāmoa; and 3 at Polo Beach. The leading cause of spinal cord injuries in Hawaiʻi between 2009 and 2012 was ocean activities, with 151 ocean-related incidents reported across the state including: 42 from body surfing; 37 from body boarding; and 42 that were tossed by a wave. Most of these, 77% involved non-residents.

According to the report, between 2003 and 2012, there were a total of 538 drownings in Hawaiian waters (including: 282 visitors; and 256 residents).  The breakdown is as follows:
• 115 snorkeling (including: 12 residents; and 102 non-residents)
• 145 swimming (including: 53 residents and 92 non-residents)
• 51 free diving (including: 48 residents and 3 visitors)
• 41 fell or were swept in (including: 21 residents, and 21 visitors)
• 36 surfing/body boarding (including 26 residents, and 10 visitors)
• 23 scuba (including: 8 residents and 15 visitors)
• 18 fishing shorecasting (including: 18 residents)
• 9 picking opihi (including: 9 residents)
• 7 boating accident (including: 6 residents, and 1 visitor)
• 27 Other activity (including: 22 residents, and 15 visitors)
• 55 unknown activity (including: 32 residents, and 23 visitors)

On Maui:
• There were a total of 150 ocean drownings in Maui County over the 10 year period between 2003 and 2013, which translates to 6 to 19 per year (including 95 on Maui, 8 on Molokaʻi and 2 on Lānaʻi).
• Most of these, 72% were non-residents.
• 34% involved swimming; 29% involved snorkeling; and 13% were from unintentional immersions.
• Number of drownings per activity: 36 swimming; 30 snorkeling; 14 unintentional immersion; 10 diving; 8 unknown; 7 other activity.
• Over the 10 year period between 2003 and 2013, there were 21 drownings in Kāʻanapali alone, 13 of them in the Puʻu Kekaʻa or “Black Rock” area. 20 of these incidents involved visitors.

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