Focus on Members: The Latvian Beach Lifesaving Association (LBLA) Focus on Members The IMRF has 113 members from 54 countries around the world. Our member organisations might be large or small, newly formed or long established. Some members are charities, others are private or public agencies, supporting organisations or industries. We’ve talked to The Latvian Beach Lifesaving Association to find out more about their work and the challenges they face. The Latvian Beach Lifesaving Association (LBLA) The Latvian Beach Lifesaving Association (LBLA) is a volunteer non-governmental, lifesaving organization dedicated to saving lives in Latvia’s waters (beaches, rivers, lakes and pools). Established in 2009 by professional lifeguard instructors and enthusiasts in cooperation with International Life Saving Federation of Europe (ILSE), the organization became an official member of ILSE and an affiliate member of the IMRF in 2015. Andris Kraulis, Chairman of the LBLA Board explains that in 2001 more than 300 people lost their lives from drowning, but with the establishment of the LBLA and the training and recruitment of 765 lifeguards, that figure has dropped to around 100 drowning deaths a year. Latvia has a coastline that stretches for more than 450 km with a lot of inland lakes and rivers. Each year the number of tourists, yachts, pleasure craft, waterjets and watersport enthusiasts round the Latvian coast and waters increases and as a result, the risk of accidents rises too. The LBLA is working hard to address to raise awareness of water safety and to reduce the number of drowning related incidents. Its work can be grouped under five headings. 1. Prevention The LBLA has developed an education programme for schools, producing videos, leaflets and brochures and runs camps with informative water safety related activities. The association has also established a ‘safety on water’ initiative for children focused on swimming proficiency and junior lifesaving skills. In last 3 Years, the LBLA has also started water safety programme in university, providing a lifeguard training programme for students. 2. Sport LBLA members have taken part in many World, European and Regional sports events, either as competitors or by providing lifeguard services to particular events. 3. Equipment for Lifeguards To ensure that LBLA lifeguards are confident and effective the organization holds regular seminars, training exercises and sports activities to ensure that its members are highly skilled and prepared for any lifeguarding requirements around the country. 4. Education The LBLA is committed to continued lifeguard training at both an international and national level, this includes everything from risk assessment training to one-on-one coaching, attending world and regional conferences, taking part in seminars and exchanges like the IMRF’s lifeboat crew exchange program. 5. Investments Lastly, the LBLA has pushed for more investment in resources to create safe beaches as outlined in the ILS standards. This includes the creation of international signs, information boards, and public rescue equipment which complies with ILS and ISO standards. The association has an ongoing integrated marketing plan promoting water safety, including a website and social media, and has been part funded by the EU to form the first voluntary SAR unit in Latvia and an international training center. Andris Kraulis, Chairman of the LBLA Board says: “We are getting closer to our goal of establishing the first voluntary SAR station. We take part in as much international training and as many seminars as we can. The mentoring and exchange of knowledge through the IMRF is vital to the LBLA and is really is helping us to achieve our goal of safer waters. We are very grateful to the IMRF and its member organisations for their support and collaboration.” Find out more here: www.lifeguard.lv.