In 2015, the International Fire Academy attended the Interschutz for the first time. In 2022, it will be there again to use the fair for exchanges with fire service officers and instructors. In the run-up to the event, CEO Urs Kummer explains current developments. In the process it becomes clear: Those who visit us at the trade fair stand can benefit directly from the know-how of our experts.
Urs Kummer: Not at all. The broad recognition of the two operational procedures certainly confirms that we are following the right path. At the same time, it is in the nature of our field of activity that new experiences and questions are constantly brought to us through the evaluation of current incidents and the professional exchange with fire service representatives. It is, therefore a matter of course that we discuss these, whether in our Didactics and Development Team, in our network of experts or with other people with experience. We condense new findings and weave them into our existing operational procedures in order to develop them further on an ongoing basis. We publish the results, be it via ifaNEWS, in expert articles or in lectures, and they constantly influence our training practice. We will also have plenty to talk about at the Interschutz.
Urs Kummer: We were also forced to cancel attendance activities. Therefore, we have examined how we can maintain professional exchange even during the pandemic. And in order to enable as many fire service officers as possible to participate, we decided last year to launch a new series, «Online Forum». Every three months, we invite you to an exchange on selected specialist topics. Despite a large number of participants in each case, there are direct opportunities for interaction. This way, participants can ask questions similar to a classroom lecture, which we then discuss live with the invited experts during the online forum. And the big advantage: Those who are interested can simply join in from anywhere without having to travel and get actively involved. By the way, the next date is 14 June 2022 from 10:00 am.
Urs Kummer: Firefighting means, above all, practical skills in the field. Since tunnel operations are not an everyday occurrence and firefighters rarely have the opportunity to gain their own operational experience, practical training close to the operation is important. For this purpose, we offer worlds of experience to enable fire service members to have realistic experiences to go into tunnel operations with confidence.
Online offers cannot simply substitute this personal experience gained through practical training. So we will continue to offer mainly practical education and training because it is indispensable. But we complement our courses with pre-course and post-course online offerings. For example, we are currently working together with the Baden-Württemberg State Fire Service School on a new concept for the so-called multiplier courses. The face-to-face course at the International Fire Academy is complemented by an online pre-course and an online post-course.
These new online training courses will be held for the first time in autumn. In doing so, we pursue two goals: Firstly, the knowledge required for tunnel operations and the experience gained from the intensive courses are to be additionally consolidated. Secondly, the online pre-course, in particular, is intended to lay the foundation for even more effective and intensive training to be carried out during training on the exercise tunnel facilities. We are now very curious about the feedback from the first run.
Simpler training organisation through cooperation
Tunnels are an essential part of modern transport infrastructure. More and more fire services, especially smaller ones, must therefore prepare for operations in underground transport systems. This poses organisational challenges - from the daily availability of firefighters to the organisation of training. Do you observe any new trends in that regard?
Urs Kummer: With the many individual solutions that fire services develop in their preparation for tunnel operations, it is difficult to name general trends. Rather, it is the case that our training consultants have become acquainted with a great many detailed solutions over the years. With their broad background of experience, they can always contribute to solving organisational challenges or establish contacts for an exchange of experiences.
Urs Kummer: I have already mentioned that in Baden-Württemberg the State Fire Service School organises and coordinates the joint training of members of different fire services. There are also comparable ways in other countries to provide training on our training facilities. In Belgium, for example, Campus Vesta organises courses with us for Antwerp, Waasland and Revierenland. Some fire services can only send participants for training through such cooperation without jeopardising their operational readiness.
Even without a superordinate organisation, fire services can join forces for training with us. Fire services from Graz and the region of Graz, Linz, Innsbruck and Klagenfurth recently sent participants to an intensive course on operations in underground car parks.
Education and training at the International Fire Academy can usually be conducted with up to 24 participants. If this quota is used up as much as possible, the costs per participant will decrease. In addition, participants benefit from the large-scale operational drills when a course is well booked. Our training consultants are happy to support fire services in such cooperations.
Urs Kummer: We have supplemented our training offer and now offer - as already mentioned - an intensive course on operations in underground car parks. Tactical ventilation has great significance in this, as fires in underground car parks can put many people in adjacent buildings at risk from smoke. To complement this course, we have created a new leaflet to support on-site training. Visitors to our Interschutz stand will receive the new leaflet for free.
Urs Kummer: The exchange with national and international fire services is crucial for our work. Only in this way can we evaluate how tactics and techniques prove themselves in the field and which - possibly also new - challenges arise in training or in the field that we can help with or that have not yet been solved. At the same time, it is an essential part of our work to help fire services with our experience from more than 20 years of intensive involvement with operations in underground transport systems and more than twelve years of tunnel training. All this is perfectly possible at the Interschutz, and we are happy to do so.
Urs Kummer: Interschutz allows us to talk to fire service officers and trainers from many countries within a short period of time. In 2015, we were able to conduct many expert discussions at the trade fair stand. It is not unusual for our discussion partners to go home with new important questions that they had previously overlooked, but usually also with many new ideas Interschutz thus provides us with a welcome exchange of experience and, at the same time, a quick way to offer our consulting services to many fire services. We therefore have all our experts and training consultants on-site, who are already looking forward to talking to visitors in person.