In the year 2003 61,600 lifesavers of the German Lifesaving Federation (DLRG) lifeguarded 2,25 million hours voluntarily on the Germans coasts and at inland waters.
The number of lifeguards increased by 14,000 compared to 2002. 549 people were rescued from sure death by drowning. In 145 rescue operations the lifeguards risked their own lives.
With this system of voluntary lifeguard service, which is unique in the world, 1,200 people were saved. In spite of all safety measures, 644 people drowned, most of which drowned in unguarded inland lakes and rivers. The DLRG states that in the future the authorities will have to draw up reasonable safety concepts for these waters.
The nice summer weather also had effects on other areas: the number of first aid operations increased from 10,592 in 2002 up to 47,502 in 2003.
As a result of many swimming pool closures to cut public costs, the number of instruction courses has decreased. In 2003 233,750 swimming and lifesaving tests were taken, which has been the lowest for decades. A downward trend is also to be recorded the formation of lifesaving instructors and lifesaving examinations. Therefore the DLRG has passed a resolution demanding the consistent turning away from this dangerous course of cost-cutting.
In contrast, the development on the examinations of beginners delived some good news: 64,348 boys and girls obtained a sea horse’ badge (beginners level). 104,518 children fulfilled the requirements for one of the youth swimming badges in bronze, silver and gold. This clearly shows that the focus of the instruction lies on the working with children at preschool and primary school age.
In view of the rising number of deaths by drowning and increasing flood disasters, the DLRG finds it imperative to include lifesaving in the legislation regarding civil defence and disaster management.
In its role as one of the largest life saving organisation in the world, with 800,000 members and donators, the DLRG also assumes international responsibility, cooperating with the International Lifesaving Federation and the European regional branch of ILS.
In 2003 the DLRG celebrated its 90th anniversary with a special ceremony held at its headquarters in Bad Nenndorf and an International Symposium on Water Safety.
Since the year of foundation the DLRG has succeeded in reducing the number of deaths by drowning in Germany by almost 90% per year. Due to the consistent work in swimming and lifesaving, the numbers of swimmers in the population has increased from 3 to roughly 80% over a period of 9 decades. As the biggest private supplier of swimming instruction, the DLRG has played an important part in this context.