Apparatus & Equipment, Firefighting, Leadership

The View from Interschutz

Article and photos by George Potter

Held once every five years, the INTERSCHUTZ – International Exhibition for Rescue, Fire Prevention, Disaster Relief, Safety and Security is by far the most extensive professional commercial exhibition in the world. The event coincides with the German national firefighters congress and muster, which attracts thousands of the nation’s nearly one million volunteers and career emergency responders, plus thousands more from fire services all around the globe. The nearly weeklong event, held June 7 -12, 2010, attracted more than 125,000 visitors from 46 countries who attended the exhibition, seminars, demonstrations, and hands-on training sessions. According to the organizers, attendance was some 25 percent more than anticipated.

Originally, the event was planned to be held once every 10 years, a span which allowed for numerous technological advances as well as significant improvements in fire service structures and operational procedures. That first exhibit was held in 1935 in Dresden, under the name of DER ROTE HAHN (the Red Rooster). The second Rote Hahn was held in 1953 in Essen, followed by the first INTERSCHUTZ in Cologne in 1961, breaking the 10-year span. In 1972, it was held in Frankfurt, followed by three successive shows held at varied intervals in Hanover in 1980, 1988, and 1994. However, as the global communications capabilities reduced time spans between innovations, the organizers saw the need to further reduce the time span between exhibitions. The next exhibit was held in 2000 in Ausburg, and the 2005 show returned to Hanover.  For 2010, the city of Leipzig was appointed as the venue, principally because of the city’s capability to organize trade shows of this magnitude, including logistics and support. However, exhibition management has determined that all future INTERSCHUTZ will be held in Hanover as from 2015, most likely at the now well-established interval of five years.
INTERSCHUTZ is essentially oriented around fire safety and protection, with active fire intervention as the keystone. Although a number of exhibitors come from the sectors of detection, fixed extinguishing systems or portable extinguishers, the vast majority of the 1,350 exhibitors displayed an infinite variety of materials oriented to active intervention. Dozens of builders of mobile fire apparatus from more than a dozen countries showed units ranging from high-pressure systems mounted on motorcycles (two-, three- and four-wheel models), pickups and vans, versions of urban and rural pumpers, and tankers on commercial and purpose-built chassis suitable for just about every need, through massive rigs for industrial and aviation applications. There was also a host of aerial devices, traditional extending aerial ladders from 48 to more than 160-feet tall, mixed with telescopic/articulated hydraulic platforms with ladders of similar heights. The “star” of the sky show, though, was the Bronto “Skylift,” towering over all at 112 meters (369 feet high), a world record. The aerial photographs were taken from a lower altitude, 180 feet. Specialized hazmat intervention apparatus, mobile command posts, amphibious and fire boats, and even robot remote-control apparatus were also on display, offering solutions for just about every necessity.
In need of personal protective equipment (PPE)? All of the world’s major manufacturers of firefighting turnout gear, boots, helmets, gloves and hoods, and SCBA were also showing their latest innovations. I had the opportunity of trying out MSA’s new low-profile set, which is undergoing evaluation by selected firefighters in the United States. Hazmat protective gear from several manufacturers included all levels of protection in a variety of materials, from neoprene to Tyvek®, and configurations.
Also on display were rescue equipment and tools for road traffic accidents, high angle or confined space rescue, and thermal imaging cameras. Most of the globe’s prime suppliers were there, many providing equipment for hands-on exercises. Among the innovations was the Lukas hydraulic pump and hose-free, batter-powered rescue system, which use hi-tech high-powered batteries to power the hydraulic pumps built into the bodies of the tools; cutter, spreader, and ram. This system permits more useable space on vehicles, faster setup, and more extended maneuverability.
Several manufacturers of fire training simulators had displays, from units for training of portable extinguishers through more complicated setups fueled by propane or similar gases, up to purpose-built containers for confined space exercises and flashover exercises.
Parallel to the exhibition of equipment, tools , and other products, an infinite number of technical sessions and presentations were held, mostly in German for the thousands of German-speaking firefighters from the host country and Austria, not to mention the Swiss, Northern Italians, and visitors from other surrounding nations. Many sessions were also presented in other languages, principally English and French. Several speakers from the United States, including five specialists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), participated in various forums. Themes of the seminars, round-table discussions, and demonstrations ranged from innovations in fixed extinguishing systems to passive protection of building elements and compartmentation to fire modelling and simulations, not to mention the latest advances in PPE, chemical protection, and on and on. Demonstrations ran that gamut from the latest innovations in aerial devices (turntable ladders from 50 to nearly 200 feet and a host of articulated and telescopic platforms) through a variety of pumpers, including Ferrara’s newest Innundator 3,000-plus gpm industrial pumper, which they claim is able to flow 23,000 gpm. There were also airport crash trucks, amphibious fire apparatus, and robotic remote-controlled apparatus for firefighting and collapse search.
Apparatus Design Differences
The basic concepts of motorized fire apparatus design and construction differ from continent to continent. The general configuration of a North America-designed and built pumper starts with a cab and engine that is either engine-ahead or cab-over with a seating capacity from two to 10 persons. The cab is followed by the mi dship mounted pump with controls normally on the driver’s side or above the pump just behind the cab, and occasionally mounted on the right or curb side. All these mechanics are then followed by the hosebed set up on the “roof” of the truck’s cargo bodywork, which is generally itself a collection of storage cabinets for tools and equipment including ground ladders, hard suction hose, portable pumps, electric generators, nozzles and fittings, and a long list of assorted odds and ends, none less important than the rest. Inside this bodywork, a water tank is installed with capacities ranging from 250 to as much as 3,000 gallons. Much less often than in the not-too-distant past, front-mount pumps are still available, and some builders are now supplying rear-mounted European style pumps. The North American configuration is also “standard” in many other areas such as Australia, South Africa, and many Asian and South American countries.
North American aerial devices are either telescopic multiple-section “straight stick” ladders or articulated and/or telescopic platforms. Both types are required to meet load capacities at the tip of the device and reach their rated vertical heights at established elevated angles. In addition, aerials are required to be equipped with a determined sum of ground ladders and other operating equipment. The standard heights range from 75 to 110 feet for ladders and platforms, although platforms of nearly 150 feet are available.
The European pumper concept, also employed in numerous countries around the globe, also starts from the front with cab and motor configurations similar to the North American styles. However, from the cab rearwards, things change quite a bit. The bodywork is also a mass of storage closets for equipment, most prominently many rolls of 55-or-so-foot sections of fire hoses of diverse diameters, plus the endless assortment of tools and hardware. The pump is situated at the rear of the bodywork, with all controls distributed around the fully accessible pump body. Nearly always, all discharge connections as well as intakes are connected directly to the pump in this area. Ground ladders and suction hoses are normally carried on the roof of the bodywork.  Inside, water tanks ranging from 300 to 1,000 gallons are generally the rule, although tanks of more than 4,000 gallons can be found. This basic configuration serves fire departments in more than 100 countries worldwide.
European concept aerial devices are also divided into the same two groups, telescopic straight stick ladders and telescopic and/or articulated platforms. Again, the similarities stop there. Whereas North American firefighters assigned to aerial operations have multiple operational functions–forcible entry, search-rescue, ventilation, overhaul, and salvage along with not infrequent extinguishments–European aerial firefighters tend to concentrate on primary and secondary search, occasional ventilation, and extinguishment support. Thus, the configuration of the European aerial bodywork is generally much simpler, without ground ladders or associated tools and equipment. However, in many major European fire departments, ladders with a reach of up to 160 feet are frequent , and 148-foot platforms are now not uncommon. Several aerial platforms of 336-foot vertical reach have been built for major Asian cities.
Nearly 80 U.S.-based companies participated as exhibitors, some in modest-sized exhibit stands, others in spacious sites of several thousand square feet with massive eye-appealing graphics. Twenty-seven exhibitors (including Fire Engineering) joined together in the U.S. pavilion, a purpose-built site inside one of the huge exhibit halls.  Many of these exhibitors were expressly seeking contacts with international enterprises to expand export markets.  
Akron Brass
Amkus Rescue Systems
AWG Fittings
DRS Tactical Systems
Environmental Tectonics
Euramco Safety
Federal Signal
Ferrara Fire Apparatus
Fire Safety International FSI
Honeywell International
Hurst Jaws of Life
Hypro Corporation
IAEM – International Association of Emergency Managers
ICL Performance Products
Kussmaul Electronics
L&C Group
Oshkosh / Pierce
Peli Products
Rescue Solutions International
SAFER Systems
SEVO Systems
Sperian Protection Instrumentation
Stanley Hydraulic Tools (2 booths)
Sterling Rope
Structural Composites Industries
Task Force Tips
Tempest Technology
Texas Engineering Extension Service
The Will-Burt Company
Underwater Kinetics
UTC Fire & Security
Warn Industries
Williams Fire & Hazard Control
American Pacific
Anchor Industries
CMC Rescue
Crash Rescue Equipment Service
Doron Precision Systems
Fire Research
Firetrtace International
Global Vision
Hannover Fairs USA (Pavilion organizer)
IAFC – International Association of Fire Chiefs
NFPA – National Fire Protection Association
Nielson-Kellerman Company
Pennwell / Fire Engineering
Pigeon Mountain Industries
Rem Tec International
Cummins Fire Power
Elkhart Brass
Ferrara Fire Apparatus
Oklahoma State University – IFSTA
Rescue 42





George H. Potter is a practicing fire protection specialist who has lived in Spain for the past 45 years. He served as an Anne Arundel County, Maryland, volunteer firefighter with the Riva Volunteer Fire Department and the Independent Hose Company in Annapolis and as an ambulance driver with the Wheaton (MD) Rescue Squad. He served six years in the United States Air Force as a firefighter, an apparatus driver/operator, and a crew chief. He has been involved in fire protection system installation, mobile fire apparatus design, and construction and fire safety training. He is a Spain-certified fire service instructor and a hazmat specialist, and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Spanish Firefighters’ Association (ASELF).