Preparation for a large-scale exercise using the Ursulaberg Tunnel as an example

  17. May 2014

The preparations of the fire brigades for a large-scale exercise in the Ursulaberg Tunnel in Pfullingen, Germany extended over a period of three months and, including the police and German Red Cross, involved over 200 personnel. In the run-up to the exercise, intensive training took place, and especially of the fire brigades involved, which is an example of the preparation necessary for the 4-year exercises prescribed by the European Tunnel Directive 2004/54/EC.

Three training dates for theory and practice in the run-up to the exercise

Based on the Swiss tunnel deployment instructions, the firefighters of the Pfullingen fire brigade received theoretical and practical internal training. Using this as a foundation, they then completed tactical exercises in the Ursulaberg Tunnel on 10 April 2014 with the neighbouring fire brigades of Eningen, Lichtenstein and Reutlingen. Yet again this training exercise involving brigades from different local authorities took place according to the guidelines of the International Fire Academy. Instructor Markus Vogt was on hand as an observer. On 12 May he carried out the tactical training of 35 management personnel from the fire brigades of Lichtenstein and Pfullingen.

The collective deployment tactics, in which all participating fire brigades had been comprehensively trained in the meantime, could finally be put to the test with the realistic large-scale exercise on 17 May 2014. Apart from the practical implementation of the fire service deployment plan, it was also a question of cooperation with the other emergency services. Support also came from the Bosch factory fire brigade which extracted the smoke from the tunnel heading in the final phase with a large mobile fan.

Difficult conditions for communications

Communications between the different service personnel involved, as well as the ability of the brigades in the tunnel to understand each other were more difficult than anticipated. The problem was not so much radio communication, but more so the very noisy tunnel ventilation. The noise generated by the vehicle engines and pumps also exacerbated the problem. The result was that verbal communication was, to a certain extent, no longer possible or only after moving to a different location.

In the coming years, training emergency personnel for incidents in underground transportation facilities should become a firm fixture in the regular exercise schedule of the Pfullingen fire brigade, combined with training sessions in the Ursulaberg Tunnel. The time set aside for maintenance and construction work should be utilised for this.

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