Always prepared for an emergency call: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – 85 volunteer and full-time men and women demonstrate a high degree of personal commitment when it comes to saving lives and helping others. Although their professional backgrounds differ greatly, they form a strong team providing fire safety and technical assistance with the volunteer fire brigade in Hofheim am Taunus. And not only the 40,000 people living in the primary area benefit from this dedication. The motorways (Autobahnen) A3 and A66, part of the S-Bahn commuter rail network and sections of the Intercity-Express (ICE) route from Frankfurt to Cologne are all within their operational area.
Every movement must be just right
The fire fighters are a close-knit team that demonstrates enormous commitment, is highly motived and very well trained. They sacrifice a considerable amount of their leisure time in the service of public safety and regularly attend courses, exercises, medical examinations and advanced training measures. The primary objective here is to provide the very finest level of assistance without taking avoidable risks. When an alarm sounds, the routine is predictable: get out of bed and get into the vehicle as quickly as possible! “We need to know our vehicles with our eyes closed – every movement must be just right”. This not only applies to driving the often very large vehicles, but also their operation and knowing “just where everything is”, says Jörg Daniel.
To ensure that everything functions smoothly in an emergency, the active members of the Hofheim volunteer fire brigade learn how to control and operate the vehicles in stages. Comprehensive training begins with the smaller crew transports and progresses to larger vehicles – all governed by a graduated approval system. Volunteer members can expect financial assistance in this respect, as the municipality undertakes to assume costs under certain circumstances when it comes to acquiring the C class driving licence.
The most demanding part of training involves vehicles with a turntable ladder and the container handling vehicles such as the MEILLER RS21. This system allows the brigade to bring a variety of containers for special purposes to an emergency. Valuable time advantages are gained during container loading and unloading through the rapid MEILLER hydraulic system.
Operation must be functionally reliable, whether by day or night and regardless of the weather or surfaces involved. Some of the fire fighters find this a real challenge, because they do not work continuously with the heavy equipment. The MEILLER i.s.a.r.-control remote is a real help here, enabling them to control and monitor each working step from any position. “This enhances safety for us, particularly drivers with little experience”, confirms Bernhard Bender.
Well equipped for every mission
The first MEILLER hooklift was purchased 25 years ago, a decision mainly influenced by economic considerations. Maintaining the continuous operational readiness of fully equipped vehicles for a variety of missions is extremely expensive and requires constant maintenance. A flexible solution with special containers is considerably more cost-effective.
Robust container handling vehicles like the MEILLER RS21 broaden the operational spectrum of the fire brigade. Even if the vehicles are in most cases only used on the second call for specialised tasks, they enable rapid and safe re-equipping.
Their container handling system considerably expands the operational capabilities of the Hofheim brigade. The “Hose” container is deployed in open terrain or for isolated farms to provide extinguishing water within a radius of 2 km. The “Track” container means the crews are equipped to tackle heavy current hazards and attend emergencies in railway tunnels. Further equipment covers replenishment of extinguishing agent, tackling of hazardous materials, bonding agents and special kit (e.g. transfer pumps).
Neighbouring communities in the Main-Taunus district which the Hofheim brigade includes in its alarm planning also benefit in emergencies from this extensive equipment.
The high level of commitment of the volunteer and full-time fire fighters deserves enormous respect. They can only fulfil their tasks if they can rely on functional equipment and operationally ready vehicles.
A glance into the Hofheim am Taunus fire station where the vehicles wait for the next alarm reveals a pristine fleet that shows no signs of having already responded to challenging emergencies. This is all thanks to the two full-time members responsible for maintenance and care. In addition to the two MEILLER hooklifts, a further 14 vehicles, 8 roll-off containers and 2 trailers need to be kept in top condition. They also take care of servicing, minor repairs and lubrication of the vehicles. This means a lot of work, given the versatility and size of the fleet. Competent service companies need to be relied on for everything else. “The operational readiness of our vehicles is vital for the fire brigade. Having vehicles in the workshop for longer periods just isn’t acceptable”, cautions Jörg Daniel.
MEILLER container handling systems have proven themselves in operations with the fire brigade where they are regarded as robust and particularly durable. Bernhard Bender confirms this: “We’ve been very satisfied with this solution for 25 years. No major defects have ever been experienced, mainly minor problems that our MEILLER service partner can reliably tackle without difficulty in the shortest possible time. Spare parts are also always available without delay. Of course, the systems do not suffer the stress of continuous use in the fire brigade, but we do find the low maintenance costs extremely positive”.
Versatile equipment for wide-ranging tasks
“We may be called the fire brigade, and putting out fires is part of our job – but it’s no longer our main duty. Demands for the provision of help and assistance have grown sharply in recent years”, says Jörg Daniel, outlining the tasks involved. The job is becoming more varied, with the provision of help in the case of accidents or ensuring the safety of rescue services an increasing part of the work. Being equipped with special extinguishing agents and materials for tackling accidents in companies using hazardous substances is also a necessity. Particularly specialised requirements also need to be met for rail traffic accidents. Use of container handling systems facilitates versatile equipping for special missions. These can be expanded without difficulty and contribute to considerably more efficient use of carrier vehicles. In principle, optimum assistance demands optimum equipment.