The number of things a volunteer rescuer needs to know adds up to a lot – and commands respect. The stretcher with the 80-kilogram patient turns out to be much heavier than expected, as is the trolley with the emergency generator. Protective equipment is necessary, but is also hot and heavy to wear. What do you need to do first upon entering an emergency site? Or how to avoid getting tangled up in the cable of your VR goggles?

These are all things journalists were able to experience live at the JUH media evening at the premises of the Johanniter Academy Lower Saxony/Bremen in Hannover. Civil protection was the topic, but networking was the ultimate objective. "Civil protection is near and dear to my heart," said Hannes Wendler, member of the state board of JUH in Lower Saxony and Bremen. "Behind every helper stands a person like you and me – someone who is pursuing their own career, with a family and hobbies, but who nevertheless finds the time to volunteer."

The Order of St. John had set up four stations at the event to demonstrate the kind of things volunteers needed to know. "Education and training are the key to integrating our helpers into our existing civil protection and disaster control systems," reported Wendler.

Station 1 consisted of a first-aid challenge. The winner was the one to perform the most effective cardiac massage for a minute. Inexperienced users worried whether the torso they were working on was going to survive. The idea of applying pressure for a quarter of an hour until the rescue service got there, of mentally playing the tune "Staying Alive" in such a life-and-death situation, commanded great respect from everyone.

The need to communicate effectively among helpers became clear at the "Rescue Randy" station, where even four people had their hands full transporting an injured victim.

Getting training via virtual reality requires a completely different approach. The Johanniter team uses 3-D simulation in their training at the Johanniter Academy in Lower Saxony/Bremen. Using VR goggles, the participants move through the scenario of an airplane crash, a major accident on the motorway or an amok attacker in a supermarket. It’s all about sizing up the site, making the right tactical decisions, positioning helpers and delivering an accurate situation report.

After a short period of familiarization, the attending journalists immersed themselves in this new reality. "That’s what we call total immersion," explained Heiner Mansholt, Head of Civil Protection and Emergency Services at the Johanniter Academy. The boundaries between simulation and reality are becoming increasingly blurred. What you see with your own eyes is not real, but the adrenaline and tension definitely are. "Welcome back to Hannover," Mansholt says as the journalists took off their goggles and returned to reality.

For the last station, the media representatives went outdoors, where there was not only an "emergency" food truck preparing split pea soup for later, but also other vehicles outfitted with special equipment. The ambulance equipment trolley was part of the "25 treatment unit", where 25 people can be cared for per hour. In the course of the media event, no patients were treated, but journalists did get to push the trolley a few meters – just to see how hard this was wearing the full outfit of the helpers.

Networking is also part of a rescuer’s job. Showing the public the kind of things that people need to train, maintain and improve on every day so that helpers are always there wherever help is needed. "Our volunteers make an important contribution to society," said Wendler – a sentence which was often repeated that night, but which rang even truer in the concrete context of the event.

Civil protection is also set to play an important role at the Johanniter Unfall Hilfe exhibition stand at INTERSCHUTZ 2020, where VR simulations will also be featured.