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Aircraft for emergency response: associations urgently call for improvement of operational capabilities

vfdb and DFV draw up joint position paper with concrete proposals - "simpler and more uniform

According to the findings of the fire department, rescue services and civil protection, the use of aircraft for emergency response in Germany urgently needs to be improved. In particular, helicopters, drones and fixed-wing aircraft need to be better integrated in terms of mission tactics and communications. In a joint position paper, the Association for the Promotion of German Fire Protection (vfdb) and the German Fire Brigades Association (DFV) provide advice on appropriate regulations. According to vfdb President Dirk Aschenbrenner and DFV President Karl-Heinz Banse, the aim is to provide assistance for the deployment of fire departments and other participants in hazard prevention, both for everyday use and for preparation. 

"The use of aircraft in hazard prevention, especially in area situations, but also in unusual events in exposed areas, is more topical than ever," emphasize DFV and vfdb. This was particularly evident during the heavy rainfall disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia last year. But also the recent forest and vegetation fires had shown the deficits. 

In a seven-point catalog, the two organizations demand, for example, a simplification of the requirement paths and alignment of the cost structures, which - as they say - "must in no case be to the detriment of smaller communities in particular." Furthermore, it is necessary that the request for the first one or two aircraft, for example helicopters for human rescue with winch or with external load container for firefighting support from the air, becomes possible for the first officer-in-charge quickly, easily and directly via his responsible control center. 

According to the experts, the possibilities for cooperation and utilization of all operators, both in the air and among the emergency services and task forces on the ground, must also be improved. The possibilities and limits of deployment would also have to be part of training. "This requires the expansion of training positions, which have been far too few to date, and further opportunities must be created," the position paper suggests. Other EU countries, such as France, which has taken on the central training and advanced training role in aircraft operations for hazard prevention in Europe with its civil defense school in Valabre, are cited as possible role models.

Multi-purpose helicopters are the only means by which people can be rescued from absolute emergencies, according to DFV and vfdb findings. "We need so many of them that we can deploy the necessary help from the air anywhere in Germany in a sufficiently short time," they demand. Another criticism is that the federal government's civil defense helicopters are currently used almost exclusively as rescue helicopters. "This is not appropriate to the meaning of the word and is also not sufficient for this purpose," it says verbatim. Currently, it is a rather smaller type of helicopter (EC or H 135) with very limited capabilities, it said. However, any civil defense helicopter must be useful in disaster control and extended emergency response and must also be capable of operating at high altitudes and in poor visibility conditions. 

Among other things, the helicopter must be capable of transporting at least 2,000 liters of water as an external load and be able to accommodate at least six fully equipped emergency personnel and other equipment, as well as being able to immediately deploy a winch to rescue people from endangered situations. In addition, the possibility of transporting recumbent patients with the appropriate emergency medical equipment and the possibility of generating image data both as video and infrared with data transmission to the ground forces are named as necessary. 

As "not goal-prominent" the position paper calls for Germany the employment of fire-fighting airplanes, since they can be used only in few of the task areas.

About the vfdb:
The vfdb is the expert network for protection, rescue and safety. For a safe life, the vfdb deals with current and future-oriented safety issues in a trend-setting manner. The purpose of the association is to promote the scientific, technical and organizational further development of hazard prevention for more safety with regard to fire protection, technical assistance, environmental protection, rescue services and civil protection. This also includes the fields related to these areas as well as the education of the population about protection against such hazards. In doing so, the vfdb acts on a national and international level. As a technical-scientific professional association, the vfdb is independent and neutral. Due to the existing and extensive expertise within the vfdb and the high-quality products (guidelines, annual expert conference, etc.), the vfdb enjoys great professional recognition and trust in its work. In the context of civil hazard prevention and civil protection, the vfdb sees its task in developing and describing the state of the art in science and technology for politics, associations and professional institutions.

About the DFV:
The German Fire Brigades Association bundles and represents the interests of its regular members: the 16 state fire department associations and the two federal groups. The divisions, partly in cooperation with the Association of Heads of Professional Fire Departments (AGBF) and the Association for the Promotion of German Fire Protection (vfdb), analyze problems and events, accompany developments, develop professional statements and concepts for the work of the fire departments and for the representation of fire department interests. Without professional exchange, joint actions and a bundled representation of interests, the German fire department would not be as it is - fast, competent and reliable, but also characterized by a high degree of individual responsibility of the fire department members and the responsible bodies of the fire departments. The firefighters' associations in cities, districts, states and the federal government have repeatedly set the course and form the brackets around this successful system. Information on the German Fire Brigades Association is available online at


Position paper on the use of aircraft for security purposes