Interview with THW President Gerd Friedsam
At INTERSCHUTZ 2022, THW will show the direction in which civil protection will go in the future. One of the eye-catchers at the THW stand will be the prototype of a pontoon boat. We interviewed THW President Gerd Friedsam for you.16 May 2022
Finally back to the trade fair, finally back to INTERSCHUTZ! What are you looking forward to most at INTERSCHUTZ?
INTERSCHUTZ is a very important exchange platform for civil protection. I am very pleased that we will now have the opportunity to hold face-to-face discussions again in Hanover. Online formats can only partially replace this important face-to-face exchange. INTERSCHUTZ is also a good opportunity to learn about new trends and innovations in civil protection and disaster management.
From your point of view, why is attending INTERSCHUTZ so important, especially this year?
In these times, which pose many challenges for civil protection, it is indispensable for actors to exchange ideas and network with each other. I consider a trade fair like INTERSCHUTZ to be an optimal platform for this.
THW will again be represented at INTERSCHUTZ with a large stand in Hall 17. What highlights can visitors expect to see at your stand?
The eye-catcher at our stand D42 in hall 17 will be the prototype of a pontoon boat and the new mobile workshop of the "Fachzug Logistik". With this equipment, THW shows the direction in which civil protection will go in the future.
The workshop containers, as well as Mabey bridges, were used after the heavy rain in July 2021 on the Ahr and Erft rivers. Visitors to the trade fair will be able to walk over a nine-meter section of this type of bridge themselves at the THW stand.
We will also be presenting the new EU module "Flood Rescue Using Boats" together with the German Life Saving Association (DLRG). In foreign missions after devastating floods, we will go into action with the module together with the DLRG.
The topic of population protection is more important than ever. The floods in the Ahr valley, but also the increasing number of vegetation fires or other extreme weather scenarios have shown this. What needs to be done so that the emergency services can help even faster and better if the worst comes to the worst?
It is not only natural events that can lead to large-scale and prolonged failure of important parts of the infrastructure, such as drinking water or power supply. As a society, we are much more dependent on this infrastructure today than we used to be. Civil protection must also gear its activities to this. In addition to further modernization of equipment, it is important to expand capabilities in various areas.
The THW has clear core competencies, for example, in emergency supply, infrastructure, clearing and logistics support. I see a need for expansion, for example, in the areas of electrical supply, bridge construction and drinking water treatment and distribution.
In addition to technology, however, it is also important to practice such scenarios again and again after extreme weather situations. Regular exercises at all levels play an important part in ensuring that cooperation between the various players in civil protection runs smoothly.
Networking and digitalization are the focus of this year's INTERSCHUTZ. What are the specific opportunities for THW and other institutions that arise from the use of innovative technologies?
As THW, we are involved in numerous research projects that promote networking and digitalization in civil protection. For example, we are testing how artificial intelligence can be used in underwater operations or autonomous boat driving.
To ensure secure communication within THW, we have introduced THW's own messager "hermine". We are also laying the foundations for the introduction of a digital THW operations platform and a digital THW operations coordination system.
However, we must not neglect the dangers posed by ever-increasing networking. This requires a long-term strategy in civil protection. For THW, this means that we will use our established structures and experience to expand capabilities in the area of cyber assistance. In the aftermath of such attacks, we want to support public institutions and get involved in the emergency repair of critical infrastructure.
Keyword volunteerism - just as with the fire departments, the work of the THW would be inconceivable without the help of the many volunteers. How successful are you in getting the younger generation - i.e. the next generation - interested in your work?
The large and long-lasting operations in recent years have given a further boost to THW's profile. In addition, we promote volunteerism with our campaign "Your time is now". In 2021, 8,000 new volunteers joined THW nationwide as a result. The development in the Federal Volunteer Service is also very good, with around 800 "Bufdis" doing service in the THW. I am very happy about this positive development.
We will, of course, use the THW trade fair stand to provide information about volunteering in civil protection. But at INTERSCHUTZ we will also advertise for the Federal Volunteer Service as well as for a full-time job at THW.
In the film we see pictures of the prototype of the pontoon boat, which you will also present at the fair. What is special about this boat? What are the operational scenarios?
The pontoon boat is a prototype that we developed over a period of three years together with several partners from industry and science, among others. There is currently no model available on the market that meets the requirements of civil protection.
The pontoon boat, which consists of various modules, can be flexibly expanded and also allows the construction of floating work platforms and pontoon bridges. Due to the compact design of the modular system, the individual elements can be easily transported. Due to the large payload of 28 tons, the pontoon boat can be used in a variety of ways.
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