open access

Vol 69, No 1 (2018)
Original article
Published online: 2018-03-28
Submitted: 2017-09-28
Accepted: 2018-01-22
Get Citation

The epidemiology of operations performed by the National Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa over a 5-year period

Elaine Erasmus, Cleeve Robertson, Daniel Jacobus van Hoving
DOI: 10.5603/IMH.2018.0001
·
Pubmed: 29611607
·
International Maritime Health 2018;69(1):1-7.

open access

Vol 69, No 1 (2018)
MARITIME MEDICINE Original article
Published online: 2018-03-28
Submitted: 2017-09-28
Accepted: 2018-01-22

Abstract

Background: Injuries remain a major contributor of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with drowning
accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths with rates of between 4 and 8 per 100,000. The African
region has death rates comparable to most low-income countries. Non-fatal drowning in Africa remains
unquantified but it is estimated to be ten times higher than the fatal drowning rate. Timely search and
rescue, initial resuscitation and rapid transportation to definitive care play a crucial role in preventing injury-
related morbidity and mortality. The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) of South Africa is a non-profit
organisation responsible for ~97% of maritime search and rescue operations in South Africa (including
inland navigable waters). The aim of the study was to describe the epidemiology of operations performed
by the NSRI of South Africa over a 5-year period.
Materials and methods: The NSRI operational database was analysed from 1 January 2010 to 31 December
2014. Summary statistics are presented.
Results: The NSRI launched 3281 operations over the study period. Marked seasonal variation were noticeable
with peak periods in December and January, corresponding to the South African summer holiday
season. Water-based operations (67.6%) were the most frequent operation performed. The NSRI assisted
3399 individuals of which 77% were male. The mean age of rescued persons was 42 years. Eight hundred
and thirty-six (25%) individuals had non-fatal injuries or illnesses requiring medical assistance. Medical
emergencies (35%), traumatic injuries (32.8%), and non-fatal drownings (23%) were the most common
types of injury and illness. The majority of the 184 (18%) deaths recorded were due to drowning (75%).
Conclusions: Injury and illness, specifically drowning utilise a large proportion of search and rescue services.
The results suggest further preventative measures and public health strategies be implemented to
minimise traumatic and medical incident severity and subsequent casualties at sea.

Abstract

Background: Injuries remain a major contributor of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with drowning
accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths with rates of between 4 and 8 per 100,000. The African
region has death rates comparable to most low-income countries. Non-fatal drowning in Africa remains
unquantified but it is estimated to be ten times higher than the fatal drowning rate. Timely search and
rescue, initial resuscitation and rapid transportation to definitive care play a crucial role in preventing injury-
related morbidity and mortality. The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) of South Africa is a non-profit
organisation responsible for ~97% of maritime search and rescue operations in South Africa (including
inland navigable waters). The aim of the study was to describe the epidemiology of operations performed
by the NSRI of South Africa over a 5-year period.
Materials and methods: The NSRI operational database was analysed from 1 January 2010 to 31 December
2014. Summary statistics are presented.
Results: The NSRI launched 3281 operations over the study period. Marked seasonal variation were noticeable
with peak periods in December and January, corresponding to the South African summer holiday
season. Water-based operations (67.6%) were the most frequent operation performed. The NSRI assisted
3399 individuals of which 77% were male. The mean age of rescued persons was 42 years. Eight hundred
and thirty-six (25%) individuals had non-fatal injuries or illnesses requiring medical assistance. Medical
emergencies (35%), traumatic injuries (32.8%), and non-fatal drownings (23%) were the most common
types of injury and illness. The majority of the 184 (18%) deaths recorded were due to drowning (75%).
Conclusions: Injury and illness, specifically drowning utilise a large proportion of search and rescue services.
The results suggest further preventative measures and public health strategies be implemented to
minimise traumatic and medical incident severity and subsequent casualties at sea.

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Keywords

drowning, sea rescue, emergency medical services, South Africa, accident and emergency medicine, prehospital emergency care

Supp./Additional Files (1)
Appendix 1 Standardized operation capture forms of the Nasional Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa
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About this article
Title

The epidemiology of operations performed by the National Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa over a 5-year period

Journal

International Maritime Health

Issue

Vol 69, No 1 (2018)

Article type

Original article

Pages

1-7

Published online

2018-03-28

DOI

10.5603/IMH.2018.0001

Pubmed

29611607

Bibliographic record

International Maritime Health 2018;69(1):1-7.

Keywords

drowning
sea rescue
emergency medical services
South Africa
accident and emergency medicine
prehospital emergency care

Authors

Elaine Erasmus
Cleeve Robertson
Daniel Jacobus van Hoving

References (21)
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