Fire services and hazard prevention

Fire services and hazard prevention is the only compulsory municipal task in rural areas which is guaranteed almost across the board solely by volunteers in voluntary fire brigades. It is a public service on which demographic and social change, as well as changes in the world of work, have a particularly strong impact. Throughout Germany, especially in structurally weak rural areas with a long tradition of emigration and high numbers of commuters, there are local staff shortages. This affects both the number of volunteers and the capabilities required for a given operation (e.g. trained users of breathing apparatus). 

The nearest professional fire brigade is usually too far away to compensate for the lack of skills or equipment. Voluntary fire brigades are doubly affected by socio-demographic change: on the one hand, emigration and changes in the world of work and leisure are reducing their resources for recruiting staff, and on the other hand, the aging of the population is changing the range of interventions and poses new demands. The population decline does not lead to a gradual decrease in the number of operations; rather, there are strong fluctuations in the number of interventions for which extreme events (in the recent past mainly storms, floods, and forest fires) are responsible. Fire-fighting in the strict sense represents only a relatively small part of the many operations. In many places in Germany, volunteer fire brigades have implemented a large number of small-scale measures in recent years, such as for instance: the rendezvous principle (the separate deployment of a paramedic and an ambulance at a scene), double membership (offering firefighters the possibility to volunteer in two fire brigades), increasing the age limit for active people, setting up children's fire brigades, or increasing public awareness activities. Nonetheless,the fundamental problem of insufficient daily availability to responsd to alarms has remained unaddressed.