Interview with Tobias Slabon, Head of High Angle Rescue at the Hannover Fire Department.

What exactly do high angle rescuers do?

Basically any kind of rescue that involves lines, rings, carabiners and the like. We are specialists in rescue from high structures, caves and mines. We’re the people you call if someone’s stuck or injured somewhere you can’t get to with a ladder. That could be a tall building, a tree or a mine shaft.

What’s the most spectacular rescue site you’ve ever been called to?

Rescuing an injured mechanic from high up in a wind turbine – that was pretty spectacular. But the vast majority of cases relate to technical rescues from buildings and trees in severe-weather situations. That’s a kind of rescue we are seeing more and more of these days.

How many high angle rescue technicians do you have in Hannover, and how often are they called out?

We have 35 personnel qualified for high angle rescue and are currently training a further eight. We handle about 10 to 15 high angle rescue call-outs a year.

What’s the most important thing when it comes to high angle rescue?

Safety. Safety comes before speed. Obviously we have to be quick, but safety is always our paramount consideration. And that applies to our annual high angle rescue championships, too. We simply can’t afford to make mistakes.

What specific disciplines do the high rescue championships involve?

The exact tasks and challenges are kept under wraps until the contest starts, but what I can tell you now is that there will be three stages. There might, for example, be an injured tree-climber, a rope ascent, or an accident where a car needs to be pulled free using ropes.

What makes 2020 such a special year for Hannover’s high angle rescue specialists?

2020 is of course special for us because we’re staging our high angle rescue championships as part of INTERSCHUTZ. But it’s also special because we’re celebrating something of an anniversary. It will be 20 years since high angle rescue first featured here on the exhibition grounds – during Expo 2000. Back then there was a cable car set up on the grounds, and being prepared for cable car accidents means having high angle rescue technicians at the ready.

High angle rescue in Germany

  • More than half of Germany’s 110 professional fire brigades have specialist high angle rescue teams.
  • The largest of these teams are based at the Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt/Main fire departments, but the Düsseldorf and Hannover fire department also have sizeable teams.
  • Some volunteer fire brigades and the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) also have high angle rescue squads.
  • The initial training for high angle rescue technicians takes 80 hours, plus technicians need to do a further 72 training hours annually in order to keep their qualification current.
  • Key facts about the high angle rescue championships at INTERSCHUTZ

  • When exactly will the championships be held?
    The high angle rescue championships will be held at INTERSCHUTZ, in Hannover, Germany, on Saturday, 20 June, starting at 9 a.m. and running until 6 p.m.
  • Who is eligible to take part?
    The contest is for professional fire brigades in Germany that have high angle rescue squads. Numbers are limited to a maximum of 15 teams, and entry is by registration, on a first come, first served basis.
  • How do you register?
    Via e-mail once the call for entries is open.
  • What does the contest involve?
    The contest will comprise three stages, but the details of what they are won’t be released until the start of the contest.
  • What prizes are up for grabs?
    No one will leave empty handed – that’s all we can say for the time being. That and the fact that there will be a challenge cup for the overall winners.