First to come, last to go
Whenever first aid is required at INTERSCHUTZ or any other large-scale trade fair in Hannover, Germany, emergency services are quickly on the scene. Benjamin Häselbarth is Head of the Special Services Department at Johanniter Unfall Hilfe (the Order of St. John Accident Assistance, a member of the local Hannover Wasserturm Association). His job is to oversee the first-aid station on the exhibition grounds. We talked to him.22 Nov 2019
The Johanniter of St. John’s run the first-aid station on the Hannover Exhibition Center. What kind of cases do they deal with, and what is your exact function there?
The site comprises 131 hectares and 26 exhibition halls, so it’s basically like a small-scale city when trade fairs are in progress. Every day, all sorts of things happen here. We provide the medical services and take care of anyone who needs help or is unwell.
Often good advice is sufficient, but sometimes we need to provide intensive medical treatment. Personally, I’m responsible for running the first-aid station, which means pre-show planning, set-up, the operational phase and then takedown.
How early is the first-aid station staffed?
We arrive first and leave last. We’re already there when exhibitors arrive for the setup phase. And only after everyone is already on their way out, can we also leave. As a rule, the first-aid station is staffed daily from 8.30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. For special events, this can be longer, for example at an evening gala event or a Bavarian fest in the Munich Hall.
And how are you equipped – both in terms of staffing and equipment?
Normally, major trade fairs like INTERSCHUTZ, HANNOVER MESSE or Agritechnica are staffed with two to four paramedics in the first-aid station, plus two ambulance cars. The first ambulance arrives in the morning at 8:30 a.m., the second at 11 a.m. We have several treatment rooms and recuperation rooms in the first-aid station, and are equipped with standard emergency services equipment, also in our ambulances.
How is your on-site presence? Are you visible at events?
You won't see much of us at the fair. The first-aid station is located in Hall 19, directly next to the North 1 entrance, where emergency ambulances also have their parking spaces.
The location is convenient – we can be anywhere within two to three minutes, even at the farthest corner of the venue. For special events or even more challenging trade fairs, we post an additional ambulance or treatment container. Sometimes it’s possible, as in the Convention Center, to use an additional room.
And who alerts you?
In principle, anyone can alert us, for example via security staff. There is a dedicated on-site emergency number: +49 511 89-114. If you dial the extension -112, instead, then you get the regional control center of the Hannover professional fire brigade, which then alerts us. In the end, it always comes back to us.
What are the classic cases in a normal day at the trade fair? What happens most often with exhibitors and what happens with tradeshow visitors?
Everything that happens in normal life can also happen at trade fairs. These can range from a small cut, high blood pressure and broken bones to a heart attack or serious work accident. For exhibitors, the setup and dismantling periods are riskier than the actual trade fair.
Stress and the probability of accidents are simply higher. Visitors often suffer minor injuries such as blisters on their feet, sprains and headaches. Many neglect to drink enough liquid during their time at the fair.
And then they get a headache pill?
In most cases, no. If there is no physician on site, we are prohibited from handing out medication. In that case, we can provide directions to the nearest pharmacy or general practitioner. However, the medication required for emergency treatment by the emergency medical service is available in large quantities and can also be issued as the situation allows.
What about visitors, with all their different nationalities? Are there any special aspects that come into play?
English is of course required for all staff members. We now have very experienced staff, including the head of the first-aid center, who has been on the team for almost 25 years, as well as one of our paramedics who was born in Liverpool. It’s a big plus if a native speaker can communicate with injured or sick people. It’s also important to mention that our staff has several women on it.
Trade fairs call for heightened sensitivity to various issues since people – exhibitors and visitors alike – can be under quite a bit of stress. So this also helps with patients of various faiths who, for example, do not wish to be treated by a male.
What was your most spectacular case on the exhibition grounds?
I can’t say exactly. Well, maybe after all – but not as a case, more as a finale. We once had an accident in which an exhibitor got two of his fingers cut off. At first he even refused to go to the hospital, but then he let himself be taken there, and after just a few hours he was back with his fingers sewn on, and carried on with his work. That was definitely an unusual case.
People today are generally more inclined to make an emergency call or visit an emergency room than before. Are you also noticing this tendency in the first-aid department, and are you busier nowadays than in the past?
No, quite the contrary. Exhibitors tend to approach situations with a "grin-and-bear" attitude, meaning they don’t show up that often. And the same applies to attendees.
What does INTERSCHUTZ mean to you? And what is the thing you most look forward to?
Mainly to talking shop with fellow emergency service colleagues, meeting old friends and, of course, seeing all the new technology. For me, INTERSCHUTZ is a melting pot for the emergency services industry, where flashing blue lights from all over the world come together.
I look forward to INTERSCHUTZ. But I'm also happy when it’s over, because then, in keeping with tradition, the emergency siren concert with about 100 vehicles takes place for several minutes. I’ll definitely be there for t
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