‘Safe app’ aims to reduce drownings in Galway city

GPS technology offers support to people in exposed area of Corrib riverbank at night

The Spanish Arch with the Corrib river and Wolfe Tone Bridge in the background: A wifi “hotspot” activates a notification system if the user is in this area for any length of time between 10pm and 6am. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

The Spanish Arch with the Corrib river and Wolfe Tone Bridge in the background: A wifi “hotspot” activates a notification system if the user is in this area for any length of time between 10pm and 6am. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

A new digital “app” aims to reduce deaths by drowning in the fast-flowing river Corrib through Galway city.

The “Galway Safe App” uses GPS technology to offer support to people detected lingering in particular waterside areas of the city late at night or early in the morning.

The app, which is due to be rolled out on Monday, has been devised by the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

It can be downloaded for free, and users are invited to register three “in case of emergency” contacts.

A wifi “hotspot” between Spanish Arch and Wolfe Tone Bridge activates a notification system if the user is in this area for any length of time between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

A “traffic light” graphic then invites the user to state if he or she is “ok” or would like their emergency contacts notified. Alternatively, the Samaritans or emergency services can be notified.

‘Hazardous places’

Gary Kyne of the task force said that in “a lively, vibrant city such as Galway, alcohol use often forms part of the social life, especially for students and other young people” and “ is often being consumed close to hazardous places such as canals, rivers and the sea”.

“We are not saying this is a panacea, but we hope it might help to reduce the number of fatalities by drowning,” he said.

Task force education officer Neil Wilson said the system was entirely voluntary. Wifi “hotspots” for the app may be extended up the river when funding allows.

“We have a large number of students in Galway, and socialising tends to take place near a waterway which can be fast-flowing in winter, and where there have been a number of fatalities,”he said. The concept could be replicated in other areas, but was the first of its type in Ireland, he said.

The Galway Safe App is supported by the Garda, Irish Water Safety, RNLI, Galway Fire Brigade, Galway City Council, Tusla and students unions at NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.