“Relief organizations refer to us as the jack of all trades.”
– Andreas Baumbusch –
City fire inspector
Everyone thinks, ‘Oh dear, there must be a fire!’ whenever city fire inspector Andreas Baumbusch comes around the corner in his striking Opel Insignia. However, just because he is on the road with the sirens blaring and the blue lights flashing, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a fire. Indeed, two-thirds of calls that required the Dreieich fire department’s services in 2015 were not related to fire. “Relief organizations refer to us as the jack of all trades,” says Baumbusch. “For example, our missions include cutting apart cars that get wedged together during crashes, helping to protect the environment against chemicals, helping to build refugee facilities, helping emergency medical services open locked doors to get to people in need of medication attention, and rescuing people and animals from tricky situations.”
RESCUING, RETRIEVING, EXTINGUISHING, PROTECTING
Their tasks are generally divided into four areas: rescuing, retrieving, extinguishing, and protecting. The Dreieich fire department is one of around 24,000 volunteer fire departments in Germany. In addition to these, there are around 100 professional fire departments in larger cities. “We wouldn’t be able to handle the 500 calls we receive each year with volunteer firefighters alone,” deputy city fire inspector Tillmann explains. “That’s why we are pleased to have a core group of nine full-time firefighters to take on the 24-hour shifts.”
Once an alarm is signaled, every minute counts. But unlike professional firefighters, the volunteers are generally not at the fire station when this happens. Instead, they’re at work, studying, at home, or engaged in a hobby. However, once they receive an alert on their pagers (radio receivers), they need to drop everything they are doing, get to the fire station as quickly as possible, change into firefighting clothes, and get in one of the fire engines. The headquarters turns the traffic light red on the main street outside the station in order to stop the traffic, and off they go, ringing a loud siren.
Six Kilogram Powder Extinguisher On Board
Baumbusch drives his command vehicle – the Opel Insignia Country Tourer – to wherever he is called whenever possible. Having four-wheel drive allows him go anywhere, even in adverse weather conditions. He can also use the radio communication system while he is driving, thanks to the six-speed automatic transmission. “I am perfectly prepared for all eventualities, thanks to the optional features,” says Baumbusch. A case in point: When he was called to deal with an engine fire on a fire truck, he was able to send his colleagues back home as they were arriving, because he had already extinguished the fire with his six kilogram powder extinguisher.
Long-term Collaboration with Opel
in Many Different Areas
The Insignia Country Tourer has been a part of the Dreieich fire department’s vehicle fleet for almost two years. The hard facts about the Insignia – built by Opel Special Vehicles (OSV) in Rüsselsheim, Germany – motivated the purchase, though perhaps the regional ties between the two cities played a small part. Opel Insignia has been awarded with numerous national and international prizes for its design, technology, safety, and quality. The car features a mechatronic FlexRide chassis, an intelligent AFL+ lighting system, numerous assistance systems such as the front camera, and the intuitive IntelliLink user and infotainment system.
The police cars, ambulances, and fire department vehicles are fully finished directly at the plant, but can be customized further in accordance with the customer’s needs. The basic model for the Opel firefighter command vehicle includes several additional features now found on the production vehicle:
- Two blue LED front flashers
- Two blue LED rear flashers
- Additional lights inside (hatch and cargo area ceiling)
- Deep discharge protection for starter battery
- Run lock feature
- Battery charging outlet
- Pre-fitted with universal analog and digital radio
- Cable set to provide separate power supply to optional components
- Equipment carrier in spare wheel recess
- Gloria powder extinguisher with integrated pressure gauge
- Choice of three special signal systems
30 hours minimum need the experts at Opel Special Vehicles to transform a production vehicle in a fire command vehicle.
The firefighters have the technical skills to carry out routine maintenance and handle small and often more serious repairs on their own without any problems – indeed, some of them are car mechanics. This self-sufficiency extends to other technical areas as well. One member of the team is trained as an IT specialist and takes care of the radio system, while a truck mechanic on the team maintains the fire engines. Otherwise, the Schroth dealership in Langen is also available if there is ever a problem with the Insignia Country Tourer that the firefighters can’t take care of themselves.
OPEL PROVIDES INSTRUCTIONS
Opel provides the fire department with current vehicle types to use for training purposes. This demonstrates that the company doesn’t simply want to sell vehicles, but also truly considers the firefighters their partners. “It is important for us to know exactly where the airbags are and how they function when we cut open a vehicle that’s been in an accident,” Baumbusch explains. “This information varies depending on the model of the car. The same is true for the side impact protection system. We also need to know where to start when we’re dealing with gas-powered and electric vehicles. Opel supports us in this regard by providing us with new vehicles from the test track and teaching us the necessary information.”
models can be fitted by Opel Special Vehicles with modifications and packages tailored to the needs of emergency medical services and firefighters: the Adam, Insignia (Sports/Country Tourer), Zafira Tourer, and Mokka.
Dwindling Number of Volunteers
The Dreieich fire department’s range of duties has continued to grow in the past years due to the increasingly widespread use of technology, the constant growth of the population, and the general public’s greater awareness of safety. Furthermore, while employers are compensated by the city for the loss of income due to employees volunteering as firefighters, many of them are not prepared to contribute towards dealing with the increasing amount of administrative tasks. “We currently have a team of 55 people in Sprendlingen – seven women and 48 men between the ages of 17 and 60,” says Baumbusch. “But we are only managing to maintain a team of this size thanks to our successful programs working with young people. This gives us a way to recruit interns time and again. It would otherwise be increasingly difficult for us – like it is for all other volunteer organizations – to recruit active members.”
Last update May 2016