The “International Fire and Rescue Confederation e.V. i.Gr.” – a strong alliance for third world and emerging countries
When the eight-story Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013, 1.135 people lost their lives, and 2.438 were injured. I witnessed the anniversary of the worst factory accident in the country’s history on site and learned how great the need is for concepts and professional training in fire protection and rescue services. This example is one of many personal experiences that motivated me to join forces with committed partners to start the “International Fire and Rescue Confederation e.V. i.Gr.” Because those who can salvage and rescue people in life threatening situations, extinguish fires, and protect them prospectively, are those who professionally provide effective development aid that prevents disasters, improves living conditions and opens up future prospects for people.
Goals of the Confederation: Protecting people and giving them a home
The mission of the “International Fire and Rescue Confederation e.V. i.Gr.” is to support fire fighter brigades, and fire protection and rescue services in third world and emerging countries as well as in countries where there is a need for them, to improve emergency medical care, and to strengthen civil protection, civil defence and disaster control. In addition, we want to implement research projects that will make these goals more quickly achievable.
In everything we do, it is important to us to work closely with the respective countries. Because together we face major challenges. People, especially from third world countries, are increasingly leaving their homes in search of protection and a better future in safer countries. The main reasons are inadequate infrastructure, deficient disaster control, shortage of drinking water, inadequate basic medical care, and insufficient fire brigade and fire protection systems. However, all this is the basis of every society, and the prerequisite for the settlement of industry and economical growth. The wave of migration is also intensified by the increasing effects of climate change with heat, drought and flooding.
The beginning: A meeting in Bangladesh
Already at the beginning of 2000, the idea was born to transfer the German fire and rescue system, which has a high professional national and internationally standing to third world and emerging countries. This idea became concrete in 2014, when I was asked to examine possibilities of setting up a fire service structure for Bangladesh. To assess the situation on the ground, I traveled to the capital Dhaka in April 2014.
The trip coincided exactly with the anniversary of the collapse of the Rhana Plaza building on April 24, 2013. 1.135 people died and 2.438 were injured in the factory accident approximately 25 km northwest of Dhaka. A video of the rescue activities was shown at an internal fire brigade commemoration to which I was invited. What particularly moved me were the desperate attempts to save a small child – who died in the arms of the rescuers after it was salvaged under the rubble.
Under the impression of this catastrophe, I inspected many companies and found that every effort was made to implement structural and organisational fire protection measures. The buildings were presented to me as successful examples. However, it was obvious that there was a lack of knowledge and expertise in the development of sound concepts, which meant that most measures would not have provided safety in an emergency – future disasters with dead and injured people were only a matter of time. In addition, some concepts seemed to serve exclusively the economic advantage of suppliers from industrialised countries rather than the interests of the local people.
Founding the Federation: An idea becomes reality
During my stay, there were numerous opportunities for technical exchange with the responsible professional fire brigade, in addition to the visits to production facilities (Fig.1). Among other activities, a seminar on the subject of “Preventive fire protection” was also held (Fig. 2).
The conclusion: The desire of the firefighters from Dhaka for training support was enormous, and with the overall impression and knowledge gained from the trip planted in my brain, I began to work on the concept of the “International Fire and Rescue Confederation” on my flight home.
In the following years, numerous other trips abroad followed, especially to Africa. What impressed me again and again was the warmth and cordiality of the people – as well as the omnipresent will to build something with professional support from Germany. After five years, and a lot of organisational ground work, the Confederation was founded on 23 August 2019.
At present, the Confederation is still in the founding phase, and is about to be recognized as a non-profit association. Within the scope of our possibilities, we have already been able to conduct many discussions with fire brigades, foreign and domestic government representatives, German trade associations and development aid banks, particularly in African countries. The response has been overwhelming, and confirms our motivation to continue on the path we have begun.
The future: cooperation drawing circles which spread further and further
We cordially invite companies, fire protection associations, aid organisations, and the major fire brigade associations to support our cause for the benefit of the world community and to help us shape it. Whether at public events in the hopefully near future or already now in personal conversations, we are pleased about your interest and every fruitful meeting in the spirit of our common cause.
Let us together develop aid that really works and helps the people!
Dipl.-Ing. Lothar Hügin