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 based on skills, speed and teamwork. Lifesaving activities specialized in oceanic environment is called surf lifesaving or coastal lifesaving.[1]

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



The first life saving organisation, the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, was established in England in 1824 by Sir William Hillary.[2] While living on the Isle of Man in 1808, he became aware of the treacherous nature of the Irish Sea, with many ships being wrecked around the Manx coast. He soon drew up plans for a national lifeboat service manned by trained crews, but received little response from the Admiralty.

However, on appealing to the more philanthropic members of London society, the plans were adopted and, with the help of two Members of Parliament (Thomas Wilson and George Hibbert), the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was founded in 1824.

One of the Institution's first rescues was of the packet St George, which had foundered on Conister Rock at the entrance to Douglas Harbour. Sir Hillary took part in the successful operation and everyone was ultimately rescued.[3] Thirty years later the Institution's title was changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the first of the new lifeboats to be built was stationed at Douglas in recognition of Hillary's work.


Similar services were established in other countries, in Belgium (1838), Denmark (1848), United States (1848), Sweden (1856), France (1865), Germany (1885), Turkey (1868), Russia (1872), Italy (1879) and Spain (1880). In 1891 the Royal Life Saving Society was created to affiliate British and Irish lifesaving and lifeguarding clubs. It expanded its operations to Canada and Australia in 1894. In 1913 the DLRG was founded in Germany.

The first international lifesaving conference was held in Marseilles, France in 1878, but it was not until 1910 that the first international lifesaving organisation, FIS (Fédération Internationale de Sauvetage Aquatique), was founded.

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 organisation, International Life Saving Federation (ILS) in 1993 with its headquarters in Leuven, Belgium.

International Life Saving Federation

The International Life Saving Federation (ILS) was established on 27 March 1910 in Paris, France. The ILS is primarily known as the world authority and head in the global effort to "prevent drowning and regroups national life saving organisations/federations aiming at improving water safety, water rescue, lifesaving and lifeguarding and lifesaving sport[4]".

In Australia

Lifesaving has changed massively over the past 100 years, with over 310 Surf Life Saving Clubs around Australia now in operation.[5] Australia offers an array of different organisations and training courses as methods of understanding life saving within the contemporary society. One of the main organisations is the Royal Life Saving Society Australia. This community was founded in 1891, with the first Australian organisation being formed in New South Wales in 1894. RLSS aims to inform and educate people of all ages with the know to prevent life-threatening issues such as burns, bites, injuries and primarily drowning as well as introducing healthy, active lifestyles by educating those who want to learn, with water safety skills. Another major lifesaving organisation is Surf Life Saving Western Australia. Because of West Australians major coastline, Surf Life Saving Western Australia provides volunteer surf lifesavers, paid lifeguards and support operations teams.[5]


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, pools, in the home, at school and in any other applicable environments.[6] 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.

As a sport

Life saving has become a growing sport in many countries.[7] 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. Life saving sport is one of few sports that has a humanitarian purpose:[8] to train better life savers and life guards.

The ILS advises that 'lifesaving sport was primarily intended to encourage lifesavers to develop, maintain and improve the essential physical and mental skills needed to save lives in the aquatic environment.' The sport consists of a series of competition disciplines intended 'to further develop and demonstrate lifesaving skills, fitness and motivation'.[9]

The World Governing body for life saving sport is the ILS. Each nation within has a national governing body. In some nations (including the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand) there are numerous governing bodies affiliated to the ILS. This is often due to various components of life saving within a nation being focused on by separate organisations. (e.g. Royal Life Saving Society focusing mainly on pool safety and Surf Life Saving Association focusing on beach safety.) Every two years the ILS organises the Lifesaving World Championships, called 'Rescue' Series.

Competitive lifesaving is carried out widely in the UK, with clubs including Leeds Phoenix Lifesaving, Belfast Olympia Lifesaving club, Blyth Lifesaving club and Crawley Town LSC. Competitions at university level are organised through BULSCA. Lifesaving has progressed significantly becoming a modern and widely known sport and occupation.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, otherwise known as CPR is the most common form of life saving. CPR can be easily understood through this simplified table.[10]

ADULT and older CHILD CHILD 1 to 8 yrs BABY up to 1 yr
CPR ratios for 1 person 30 compressions to 2 breaths 30 compressions to 2 breaths 30 compressions to 2 puffs
CPR ratios for 2 persons 30 compressions to 2 breaths 30 compressions to 2 breaths 30 compressions to 2 puffs
Chest pressure 2 hands 1-2 hands 2 fingers
CPR compression rate Approximately 100 per minute Approximately 100 per minute Approximately 100 per minute
Compression depth One-third of a chest depth One-third of a chest depth One-third of a chest depth
Head tilt Maximum Minimum None
Rescue breaths 2 full breaths 2 small breaths 2 puffs
Breathing rate 1 breath in 1 second 1 small breath in 1 second 1 puff in 1 second


All collapsed victims should be carefully assessed to decide what emergency care is needed. This method of assessment is known as DRSABCD, this method is explained in the following table.[11]

D Check for Dangers
R Check Response
S Send for help
A Clear and open the Airway
B Check for normal Breathing
C Give 30 chest Compressions at 100 per minute, followed by 2 rescue breaths
D Defibrillate - attach AED as soon as available. Follow the prompts.

See also


  1. User, Super. "About Lifesaving". Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  2. "lifesaving". Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  3. Visit Isle of Man.
  4. "ILS History".
  5. 1 2 "Surf Life Saving Western Australia". Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  6. "Facts & Figures - Royal Life Saving". Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  7. User, Super. "About Lifesaving". Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  8. Firefighter's Combat Challenge
  9. "Lifesaving Sport Events". International Life Saving Federation. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  10. First Aid Emergency Handbook. Western Australia: Surf Life Saving Western Australia. 2015. p. 11. ISBN 978 1921366536.
  11. First Aid Emergency Handbook. Western Australia: Surf Lifesaving Western Australia. 2015. p. 1. ISBN 978 1921366536.
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