Hannover. Just a few decades ago emergencies occurring on top of tall buildings, electricity pylons and cranes, etc. stretched the fire brigades to their limits. This problem has long been solved. Throughout Germany fire brigades and other organizations can now call on the services of high-altitude rescue specialists. During the "German High- Altitude Rescue Championship" at INTERSCHUTZ 2015 more than 100 of these helpers will give insights into their special skills.

Fifteen teams of six will be participating on four competition stages. The exact nature of the assignments will be kept secret until the actual day of the championship (13 June). The fastest team wins. Mistakes will incur additional time penalties.

High-altitude rescue is a fairly recent development in Germany. Its origins date back to the early 1980s, to the East Berlin Fire Department in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). In 1986 the "Special Rescue Service was instituted nationwide in the GDR. West Germany soon followed suit, when the Frankfurt Fire Brigade set up its own high-altitude rescue team.

A system of cable cars spanning the EXPO 2000 site was planned in the nineties. In response to this the city's fire department, police force and the cable car operator formed a special high-altitude rescue group in 1999. After EXPO 2000 this group was then integrated into the Hannover fire department. Today the team comprises 40 firemen, all of whom have received additional training as paramedics, plus ten instructors.

High-altitude rescue workers have to complete 80 hours of basic instruction, plus an annual 72 hours of in-service training. Special emphasis is given to the use of ropes and safety devices. The longest rope mea sures 200 metres. "However, there is no upper limit. If necessary, several ropes can be joined together," says Tobias Slabon, leader of the high-altitude rescue team and head of department at Hannover Fire Brigade.