The glorious world of marine lifeguards

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Bernard DENIS

Vice president, Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM) (National Society of Marine Lifeguards)

Seminar Social life | Thursday January 14, 1999

The Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM) is unusual in France. It is a private association (created in accordance with the 1901 law) whose task is to carry out a public service. This unusual situation can be explained by the fact that it was created in the liberal atmosphere of the Second Empire (in 1865) which encouraged private initiative. Today, this private institution is still present. Three thousand five hundred volunteer, but very professional lifeguards respond to four thousand rescue calls and save ten thousand people every year, the majority of whom are amateur sailors. There is no lack of candidates for this sometimes dangerous but always convivial job which is enhanced by a camaraderie. However, there are difficulties with fund raising : there are only twenty five thousand paid-up members, whereas there are eight hundred thousand pleasure boats. The demand for lifeguards is such that both the SNSM and State lifeguards are required and therefore the SNSM has to learn to work with the State.

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