According to the emergency services in civil protection and disaster management, the federal government, the states and the municipalities urgently need to come together to be able to solve the challenges in the future. This is the message of the 69th annual expert conference of the German Fire Protection Association (vfdb), which is taking place in Münster until (tomorrow) Wednesday. At the same time, according to the experts, the population must be increasingly strengthened in their ability to help themselves. "It must be possible to work together across hierarchies, to sit down together and not see the existing structures as obstacles," vfdb President Dirk Aschenbrenner told journalists on Tuesday. Aschenbrenner was confirmed in office for the third time after ten years. Likewise, Vice President Anja Hofmann-Böllinghaus was unanimously re-elected .

"People are much attached to responsibilities and not solution-oriented," says Aschenbrenner. "If I want to solve problems, I have to leave the familiar structures behind and ask what needs to be done to have a solution tomorrow." There are major obstacles to this, he says. This may be because "often the operational forces are not the ones who work together". Instead, lawyers and administrative structures first have to go through many formalities before they reach their goal. "This takes a long time, but usually does not improve the results," criticized the vfdb President. The annual conference had once again become the industry's pioneering event for the transfer of knowledge into practice. Aschenbrenner: "Our aim is to support and intensify the dialogue between research and development, manufacturers and users."

At the opening of the three-day congress, North Rhine-Westphalia's Minister of the Interior Herbert Reul and Münster's Lord Mayor Markus Leve had words of praise for the achievements of the active emergency services. Leve, who is also President of the German Association of Cities, called the fire brigades "one of the most important pillars for our cities to function. Interior Minister Reul said, "What you do is indescribable." He said he was stunned by attacks on emergency services. At the same time, he emphasized the willingness of many people, including spontaneous helpers, to "go the extra mile".

High level conference

In around 50 lectures, the speakers illuminated the broad spectrum in the areas of protection, rescue and safety that is supervised by the vfdb. For the first time during a specialist conference, there was a "Policy-Talk" in which, in addition to the Member of the German Bundestag Leon Eckert, the Members of the State Parliament Rüdiger Kauroff from Lower Saxony and Verena Schäffer from North Rhine-Westphalia as well as disaster control expert Benno Fritzen discussed. "We introduced the new format so that what is discussed here from a technical point of view also gets through to politicians," emphasized Dirk Aschenbrenner. "The result is that - as expected - solutions to the challenges in civil protection are difficult to find if everyone stays in their system." In the plenary session that followed, participants appealed to politicians to "just listen to the experts" in future. It is not done with "Sunday speeches".

Accompanying exhibition

At the accompanying exhibition, almost 40 exhibitors, such as Dräger, Texport, MSA, Eurocommand and many more, showed the 650 participants their latest developments, solutions and products in hazard prevention.

The participants were a colorful mix of science, industry, voluntary fire brigades, professional fire brigades, trainees and students.

Motto "Can we help ourselves?"

The motto of this year's conference was: "Can we help ourselves?" For Anja Hofmann-Böllinghaus, Chair of the vfdb's Technical and Scientific Advisory Board, there is, she reported, a clear answer to the question, but one that comes with a "but". "When it comes down to it, people can help themselves. However, they also need to be guided to do so and given the necessary information," the vfdb Vice President said. "This basically starts with first aid training in school. Even later: people need to know that an ambulance does not always have to be called. However, the infrastructure in the health system must also be right, so that low-threshold help can also be obtained elsewhere.

A position paper of the vfdb on the necessary reform of emergency care was also discussed on the fringe of the annual expert conference. The paper had been presented a few days ago together with the German Red Cross and the Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe - key players in the rescue service - as well as the Arbeitskreis Notfallmedizin und Rettungswesen e.V. at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich.

There was great applause during the symposium for the winners of the Excellence Awards by the vfdb's own SafeInno Foundation. The awards are among the highest honors for special work in the field of hazard prevention. The winners this time are Marie Claire Ockfen, Wuppertal, in the category "Special organizational achievement", Dr. Lisa Sander, Hanover, in the category "Special scientific achievement" and Dr. Jonas Schubert, Dresden, in the category "Special achievement in research and development".

During the conference, President Aschenbrenner paid tribute to the long-serving vfdb Secretary General Dirk Oberhagemann, who retired, to great applause. His successor is Roman Peperhove.