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Ice rescue training in Canada
Lifesaving is the act involving rescue, resuscitation and first aid. It often refers to water safety and aquatic rescue however it could include ice rescue, flood and river rescue, swimming pool rescue and other emergency medical services. Lifesaving also refers to sport where lifesavers compete skills, speed and team work. Lifesaving activities specialized in oceanic environment is called surf lifesaving or coastal lifesaving.

Those who participate in lifesaving activities as a volunteer are called lifesavers, and those who are employed to perform lifesaving activities are called lifeguards.


In the 19th century, countries like Francemarker with its long history of disaster preparedness, the Netherlandsmarker with two thirds of its land below sea level and Britainmarker where swimming pools gained so much popularity, were aware of the danger of water and establishing the methods of drowning prevention and rescue.

In 1891 the Royal Life Saving Society was created to affiliate British and Irish lifesaving and lifeguarding clubs. It expanded its operations to Canadamarker and Australia in 1894.

The first international lifesaving conference was held in Marseillesmarker, France in 1878, but it was not until 1910 that the first international lifesaving organization, FIS (Fédération Internationale de Sauvetage Aquatique), was founded. FIS members included Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia and Turkey.

In 1913 the DLRG was founded in Germany.

In 1971 Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States founded another international organization called World Life Saving (WLS).

FIS and WLS merged into a new organization, International Life Saving Federation (ILS) in 1993 with its headquarters in Leuvenmarker, Belgium.

Competitive lifesaving is carried out widely in the UK, with great clubs including Heanor and Crawley. Competitions at university level are organised through BULSCA.

Lifesaving has progressed significantly becoming a modern and widely known sport and occupation.


Boy scouts taking a lifesaving lesson.
Chiba, Japan
Surf lifesaving developed in Australia and is often simply called "lifesaving". It focuses on drowning prevention and rescue in a coastal setting. General lifesaving does not limit its activities to beaches - its aim is to promote water safety around ponds, lakes, rivers, in the home and in any other applicable environments. This is why landlocked countries like Switzerland, Austria, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic and Slovakia, are also full members of ILS.

Lifesavers are volunteers and usually stationed at a club house. They provide training for lifesaver/lifeguard qualifications as well as educating the general public.


Lifesaving has become a growing sport in many countries. The sport can be played indoors in swimming pools or outside on beaches, in the same way that you get pool lifeguards and beach lifeguards.

Competitions are organised centrally through different organisations such as BULSCA or the RLSS in the United Kingdommarker.

The next world championships are held in Alexandriamarker, Egyptmarker, called Rescue2010.

Competitive Lifesaving is separated into two clear divisions: Stillwater and Openwater competitions.

Stillwater lifesaving involves competing in a pool in a variety of events. Races are time based and heats are decided by qualifying times. The focus is on speed and in general the fittest person does the best. There are 7 pool based events as listed below with a brief description-

Individual events

100 m mannequin carry

The competitor swims 50 m freestyle wearing fins and then dives to recover a submerged mannequin, weighing 54 kilos, at the other end of the pool. The mannequin's head must break the surface within 10m of the end of the pool, and once it does so it must remain above the water level until the end of the event (this is known commonly as the dunking rule). The competitor carries the mannequin to the finish edge of the pool.

100 m mannequin tow

The competitor swims 50 m freestyle with fins and rescue tube. The semi-filled, and therefore floating, mannequin is waiting at the other end of the pool, the competitor clips this mannequin into the tube within 5 m of the end and swims back- the mannequin in tow.

50 m mannequin carry

The competitor swims the first 25 m of a 50 m pool freestyle and then dives to recover a submerged mannequin to the surface between the 25 and 30 m marks. The competitor then carries the mannequin to the finish edge of the pool. Again, the dunking rule applies.

100 m rescue medley

The competitor swims 50 m freestyle then turns, at this point the competitor must go underwater and swim underwater to a submerged mannequin located at 17.5 m distance for men and women. The competitor must stay underwater until they reach the mannequin. The competitor surfaces the mannequin within 5 m of reaching it, and then carries it the remaining distance to the finish edge of the pool, of course the dunking rule applies.

200 m obstacles

The competitor swims 200 m freestyle during which he/she swims under eight (8) immersed obstacles.

200 m super lifesaver

The competitor swims 1 and a half lengths (75 m) freestyle and then dives to recover a submerged mannequin. The competitor surfaces the mannequin within 5 m of the middle of the pool and carries it to the turning edge. After touching the wall the competitor releases the mannequin.

In the water, the competitor dons fins and rescue tube within 5 m of the wall and swims 50 m freestyle. After touching the wall the competitor fixes the rescue tube around a floating half filled mannequin within 5 m of the end and tows it to touch the finish edge of the pool.

12 m line throw

In this event, the competitor throws an unweighted line to a fellow team member located in the water approximately 12 m distant and pulls this "victim" back to the poolside.

Team events

In these events lifesavers compete in teams of four in the following races

Rescue medley

Swim and tow

Obstacle relay

Manikin carry relay

Line throw relay

A team of four people coil and throw the rope to each other in succession. With the first thrower entering the water at the rear and being pulled in last.

Open water lifesaving takes place on the beach and in the ocean. Races are not set in lanes and tend to be more exciting as other factors such as weather, tides and waves have a large influence on the results. Different skills are needed, aside from just fitness and speed. Experience and tactics definitely play a large role.

See also



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