Great penetration depths = long distances
By penetration depth, the International Fire Academy understands the distance from a safe area of a UTS, for example, the tunnel portal or an emergency exit, to the working site of the emergency personnel. In the case of buildings, the required penetration depths are rarely more than about 35 m. Road tunnels according to European standards require penetration depths of 300 m to 500 m. In new railway tunnels, the required penetration depths are also limited to 500 m, in existing railway tunnels they can be several kilometres.
From 80 m on it will be extreme
From a penetration depth of about 80 m, the stresses and personal risks of the firefighters equipped with breathing apparatus increase drastically. Their protective equipment and the equipment carried weigh up to 40 kg. Advanced deep into the smoke, simple mistakes can have fatal consequences. Carrying a rescued several 100 m far out of the tunnel without transport aids is practically impossible to achieve. In order to reduce physical and psychological stress, we have developed special search and transport aids. In particular, search sticks and basket stretchers with wheels provide great relief.
Recognising and respecting limits
In our tunnel training facilities, the students feel the physical strains of large penetration depths at first hand. This is how they learn what they can achieve; for example, to advance several 100 m far into the smoke. But they also develop a sense of performance limits: No one will be able to carry a heavy person hundreds of metres out of a smoke-filled tunnel. That is why we should not attempt to do it in the first place, but should always use appropriate transport aids for their own relief.
We strongly appeal to our students to respect their individual performance limits and not to "overload" – not during training and certainly not during an operation. It is not embarrassing to reach your own limits, but it is dangerous to ignore them.
Beyond the performance limits
The fire services can hardly perform greater penetration depths than about 500 m. Neither the air supply nor the physical strength is sufficient for this. In order to be able to penetrate deeper into a smoke-filled tunnel, special vehicles with a secured space are required, such as fire and rescue trains.