HOHENFELS, Germany — Drowning is a global health issue, larger than many accept, and is almost entirely preventable.
All official lakes and pools in Germany have their own lifeguards. One of the largest groups is the Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs-Gesellschaft. Founded in 1913, the DLRG has over 1.8 million members and supporters worldwide and is one of the biggest life-saving organizations in the world. By educating young children and teaching them how to swim with the possibility to earn the “Seahorse Badge,” the organization is trying to prevent the rise of drowning victims.
Due to the volume of swimming accidents this year, the DLRG is reminding people about their basic water rules.
“The first piece of advice is for everyone to follow the simple rules,” said DLRG member Achim Wiese. “For a good reason, the rules are not to swim under the influence of alcohol, near boats, nor should you just jump directly into the cold water in hot weather without cooling down (so as) to reduce the risk of a circulatory collapse.”
The USAG Bavaria Safety Office emphasizes that all rivers, lakes and ponds on post are deemed off-limits for swimmers. Also, U.S. Army Europe does not authorize swimming in any lakes, ponds, rivers or pools off post unless there is a lifeguard always present.
“Almost 80 percent of the drowned people, especially young men, would often underestimate their own capabilities, the danger and their strength,” said Wiese.
With over 2,100 local clubs and over six million hours of volunteer work per year, the DLRG is nationwide the number one for swimming and lifesaving education. With a range from Lifeguards, Swift Water Operators and Rescue divers, the DLRG is well prepared for any emergencies.
The DLRG does not only create and promote activities to fight drowning and provide lifeguards at public places. The group also teaches swimming and self-rescue to the public, basic and advanced training in First Aid.
The DLRG is not the only lifeguard association in Germany. The Wasserwacht (Water guard) is a non-profit organization belonging to the German Red Cross. They also have a responsibility to train and educate non-swimmers, and to keep nature and the waterways clean and safe.
The Wasserwacht provides live-saving services on most lakes and pools in, as well as on the coast of Germany. Therefore, they require fast and powerful transportation in case of an emergency. For their execution on the water during an emergency, the Wasserwacht maintains special emergency response units, such as the Rescue Diving Unit. The units are needed for the salvaging of goods, vehicles, garbage and corpses. The education of a rescue diver usually takes one to two years and requires an annual dive-medical evaluation.
Both organizations award their members different German Rescue swimming badges for their proficiency in rescue swimming skills. The German rescue-swimming badge is awarded in bronze, silver and gold. The awards are available as a cloth patch, as a metal badge or as a ribbon. But the requirements are not easy to achieve.
At the age of 15, teenagers who have already received their bronze badge can try out for the silver badge by completing a First-Aid course and a different set of tasks and test.
To receive the rescue-swimming badge in gold, you must be at least 16 years of age, have successfully finished a first-aid course, to include a medical certificate of physical fitness, and have the rescue-swimming badge in silver.