Tunnel workshop for National Fire Agency, Taiwan

  29. November 2013

The Training Academy of the National Fire Agency in Zhushan, close to Taichung, Taiwan, is the third-largest emergency training centre in the world. Occupying over 100 hectares, 49 exercise scenarios are installed, including the equipment necessary for training for fighting aircraft fires, fires in high-rise buildings, as well as incidents of fire in tunnels and underground railways.

From 15 to 17 October, a delegation from Taiwan travelled to Balsthal and Lungern to find out in a workshop whether elements of the Swiss tunnel deployment training course could be integrated into the training concept of the National Fire Agency. The five participants - staff from the National Fire Agency, the Municipal Fire Brigade of Kaohsiung City and a supplier - were full of praise for the International Fire Academy in relation to deployment tactics. The procedure was demonstrated and discussed in the tactics centre, as well as field-tested wearing breathing equipment in the tunnel training facilities in Lungern. The workshop was neatly rounded off by an exchange of experiences with the Fire & Rescue Service of the Gotthard Tunnel and a tour of the recently modernised training school for rescue troops of armasuisse in the town of Wangen a.d. Aare.

The delegation from Taiwan was more than a little impressed by the training opportunities, their flexibility and the resulting options for training exercises. The Training Academy in Taiwan, which was only finished recently, also has its own tunnel training facilities. However, because of the lack of exercise scenarios and the considerably smaller size of the facilities, they have nothing comparable with what Balsthal or Lungern have to offer.

Background: the event that triggered the establishment of the Training Academy of the National Fire Agency in Taiwan was the earthquake of 1999. It is especially young junior staff aged between 20 and 25 years that are trained in the new centre. Depending on their particular speciality, training lasts 6 to 18 months. Apart from firefighting, intensive search and rescue courses make up part of the training programme.

One of the most recent tunnel incidents in Taiwan was an accident close to the capital Taipeh in May 2013, in a tunnel just under 13 km long, which is actually the longest tunnel open to traffic in the country. A fully occupied bus collided with a car. The fire service was able to extinguish the fire in 40 minutes. 2 people died and a further 22 were injured in the accident. As a result of the accident and firefighting operation, over 100 cars were stuck in the tunnel for hours.

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