Interview with Thomas Slabon, head of the Hannover Fire Department’s height rescue squad
What exactly do height rescuers do?
In a word: Anything that has to do with ropes, loops and hooks. We’re the specialists for rescuing people from both high and low places. Any spot you can’t reach with a ladder – that’s where we come into play. This could be a tall building, but also a tree or a shaft.
Any examples of particularly spectacular locations?
Getting an injured mechanic down from a wind turbine would be one example. However, the largest number of missions by far occur during storms, when technical assistance is required on buildings or in trees. That’s an increasingly common occurrence.
How many height rescuers do you have in Hannover and how often are they used?
Currently, our team consists of 35 height rescuers, with another eight still in training. We get called out between 10 and 15 times a year.
What is most important when rescuing people from heights?
Safety comes first – time comes second. Of course we need to be quick, but safety is always the main thing. You can also witness this aspect in the annual competition of height rescue teams. They know the importance of attending to every little detail so nothing goes wrong.
What disciplines are tested in the height rescuer comparison?
The exact nature of the tasks remains secret right up to the competition date. But there will definitely be three stations. Possible examples could include the scenario of an injured tree climber, a rope ascent or moving a vehicle by means of ropes.
2020 is a special year for Hannover’s height rescuers. Why?
Of course it is something special for us to be organizing the competition of height rescuers at INTERSCHUTZ. But we are actually also celebrating a kind of anniversary. That’s because in 2000, the World’s Fair represented the starting shot for height rescue assistance here in Hannover. There was a cable car on the Expo grounds, and anyone who wanted to be prepared for a potential cable car accident needed to have height rescuers on hand.
Key info on the height rescuer performance competition at INTERSCHUTZ
- When exactly is the competition?
The height rescuers’ performance comparison takes place on Saturday, 20 June, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Hall 16 at INTERSCHUTZ in Hannover.
- Who is eligible to participate?
The competition is open to entries by professional fire departments/brigades in Germany with rescue teams. A maximum of 15 teams will participate. First come, first served.
- How does registration work?
By e-mail, after the call for entries has been announced.
- How does the competition work?
There will be three stations to be announced at the beginning of the competition.
- What is the prize for the winning team?
No one goes away empty-handed – that much can be revealed. And the winning team will be honored with a challenge cup.
Height rescue in Germany
- Of the 110 professional fire brigades in Germany, more than half have height-rescue teams.
- The largest teams are maintained by the fire brigades in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt/Main, but the fire brigades from Düsseldorf and Hannover are also well-positioned relative to their size.
- Volunteer fire-brigades and the THW technical relief organization also have height rescuers.
- Height rescuers undergo an 80-hour training program. After that, height rescuers need to undergo an additional 72 hours of training annually.