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Although it is a relatively new discipline, safety-related research in Germany has rapidly gathered momentum and produced impressive results
Apart from the vfdb, various fire brigades are actively engaged in safety research

Safety-related research is a relatively new discipline. It covers a wide range of areas where there is a need for further scientific enquiry and findings. In this respect INTERSCHUTZ 2015 will provide a shop window for the latest findings and trends. INTERSCHUTZ 2015 discussed current developments with Dirk Aschenbrenner, President of the German Fire Protection Association (vfdb).

INTERSCHUTZ News: In which areas is there an urgent need for research? In other words, where are research efforts concentrated at present?

Aschenbrenner: Safety research is indeed a very young discipline. Many areas are still unexplored. Developments in the past were often based exclusively on practical experience, estimates and “intuition”. However, public safety and security assignments have become more complex and far-reaching. At the same time the parameters are changing at a rapid rate. The ageing population and the decline in the birth rate are just two examples.

The only way to overcome these challenges is to adopt a structured, analytical and comprehensive approach – that is, to apply scientific methods. Furthermore, scientific research offers a perfect opportunity to foster innovation in the area of fire prevention, assistance, rescue and disaster relief in line with specific practical requirements and under excellent scientific conditions.

INTERSCHUTZ News: Does the vfdb conduct its own research?

Aschenbrenner: The vfdb is currently involved in two research projects. The TIBRO project sets out to analyze Germany’s fire-fighting infrastructure and make recommendations for future-proofing the country’s fire brigades. The starting point is the so-called ORBIT study carried out in the 1970s, which still forms the basis for today’s requirements planning. Due to the changed parameters, this study is in need of a thorough scientific review. The goal is to develop planning tools that correspond to the current technological state-of-the-art and anticipate future developments.

The BaSiGo project centers on improving safety at large-scale public events. Due to the complexity and diversity of the various parameters, planning and implementing such events can pose a major challenge. The aim is to develop procedures and methods which take account of the above-mentioned criteria and ensure a high level of safety.

The Berlin Fire Brigade is investigating how to identify and involve specifically trained volunteers in the event of major disasters

Apart from the vfdb, various fire brigades are actively engaged in safety research. For example, the Berlin Fire Brigade is investigating how to identify and involve specifically trained volunteers in the event of major disasters. The role of these volunteers is to bridge the gap until sufficient numbers of trained professionals arrive at the scene. The research goals center on the reliable identification, notification and deployment of skilled civilian helpers.

For several years Dortmund Fire Brigade has been operating the “Institute for Fire Brigade and Rescue Technology” (IFR) in close cooperation with Paderborn University. The focus here is on information technology and organization. Within the framework of the ANCHORS project the IFR is exploring the possibilities for deploying unmanned systems (ground-based robots and aerial vehicles) in order to monitor large radioactive clouds.

INTERSCHUTZ News: How do you assess the role of camera-equipped aerial vehicles at major disaster sites? Will this become standard practice by 2020?

Aschenbrenner: I assume that unmanned aerial vehicles will be commonplace by 2020 – also as far as the fire brigades are concerned. The advantages of live visual surveillance and hazard detection have been clearly demonstrated in various research projects. Speed, autonomy, networking, a visual perspective and resistance to hazardous substances – these are just some of the key benefits.

In addition, I am convinced that the continuation of current safety research projects in the area of sensor technology, integration, data acquisition and data analysis will promote innovation. This new knowledge will make a major contribution towards the development of advanced damage-avoidance and rapid-response technologies. Looking back to the past, it is disturbing that thermal imaging technology – which is now used to locate victims at the scene of fires – is the product of military research as opposed to safety-related research. The vfdb therefore calls for the provision of adequate research funding, also beyond 2017!

INTERSCHUTZ News: Where does Germany stand internationally in the area of fire and disaster research and what are your expectations with regard to INTERSCHUTZ 2015?

Aschenbrenner: Although it is a relatively new discipline, safety-related research in Germany has rapidly gathered momentum and produced impressive results. This indicates that such research is in high demand and that considerable scientific potential is available. Thanks to the research efforts of the vfdb and the various fire brigades, Germany now boasts a unique position and has become an attractive research partner in the context of the European Union.

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