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Quarta-Feira, 27 de Maio de 2015

Healthy beaches programme has already saved over 700 lives

The Healthy Beaches Programme, which this month completes a decade of existence, has helped save 713 lives and has helped 1,062 swimmers in difficulty. In 10 years, the Programme has also organised over 300 awareness campaigns which involved 280,000 children all over Portugal.

Launched in May 2005 at Tamariz Beach in Estoril and currently covering over 170 bathing beaches in mainland Portugal and the Autonomous Regions, the Healthy Beaches Programme is sponsored by the Vodafone Portugal Foundation in partnership with the National Maritime Authority, APA – Portuguese Environment Agency, INR – National Institute for Rehabilitation and ABAE – European Blue Flag Association.

The Programme’s priority objectives are to contribute to increasing the safety and environmental quality of beaches, and their accessibility to people with limited mobility by means through the donation of resources by the Vodafone Portugal Foundation. Between 2005 and 2014, the total financial resources provided by the Vodafone Portugal Foundation to this programme totals 12.5 million euros.

In terms of safety, the programme has provided important equipment such as 14 rescue jet skis, 14 floating stretchers and 70 lifeguard watch towers, among other items. A simplified public mobile communications has also been created, through which the lifeguards can be alerted to potential emergency situations. Over 320,000 calls have been made using this system. Mobile phones have been provided to lifeguards and a telephone number has been assigned to 250 lifeguard posts covered by the programme. The establishment of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) has facilitated communications between lifeguard posts, port authorities, the Portuguese Lifeboat Institution, municipal and local fire brigades, national emergency numbers and other bodies identified as having a role in emergency situations. The VPN includes over 500 telephone numbers.

In terms of environmental improvements, over 4.5 million beach ashtrays were supplied to municipalities during the 10 years and 15 wooden kiosks were installed for municipal use (e.g. as beach libraries) and 25 beach machines were provided.

In terms of accessibility for people with special needs, the number of beaches with equipment that enable the creation of more inclusive facilities has not stopped growing year after year. Over the decade, they 135 amphibious wheelchairs, 124 accessible walkways and 124 information panels in Braille were donated.

Awareness activities aimed at educating beachgoers have included various safety campaigns promoted on television and radio and awareness campaigns aimed specifically at children, such as the Champions Summer campaign. Initiatives in this campaign include various activities such as games illustrating the risks caused by carelessness, and information has been given about safe behaviour on beaches through simple and fun educational games. This campaign has already involved around 280,000 children.

Also in the area of environmental awareness and the provision of information to beachgoers, the Beaches Live app provides information about environmental matters, safety and accessibility on bathing beaches including, for example, the sun exposure risk throughout the day. Users can visualise, for example, the period of the day when the UV index reaches maximum levels. Measurement of the parameters is performed in real time by autonomous monitoring stations powered by solar panels.

The Healthy Beaches Programme, whose value is recognised not only by the partners involved but also by the users of beaches, is now entering its fourth implementation phase by the Vodafone Foundation, which continues to support it as part of its Social Responsibility strategy.