Three Belgian firefighters in turnout gear practice putting out a fire on a burning vehicle.
28 Jan 2018

CTIF Extrication Commission charting new and unknown territories on alternative vehicles

New vehicles with alternative propulsion systems create special challenges for First Responders: Rescuing victims trapped from accidents require special knowledge when cutting vehicles equipped with fuel cells and high power batteries.  Also when responding to vehicle fires, new energy sources all create largely new territories in Extrication.


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By Tom Van Esbroeck & Kurt Vollmacher, CTIF Commission for Extrication & New Technology & CTIF Belgium

During the firefighters' congress in Kortrijk in 2015, Tom Van Esbroeck and Kurt Vollmacher gave a presentation on 'Interventions involving vehicles of the new generation'. The participants became suddenly aware of this new technological evolution. This was suddenly very close to home... And it would require a new working method from the fire fighters.

In this first article Tom Van Esbroeck and Kurt Vollmacher sketch the framework of the working methods of extrication on new vehicles.

In the then Cell 2 VTO of BVV (Education, Training and Exercise) the idea rose to organize a workshop on this subject. In cooperation with the Federal Centre of Expertise for Civil Security (KCCE) and BVV the first 'Day of the Extrication' was organized in 2011. It was a success! The second edition regarding 'rail traffic’ in 2013 was a bull's eye as well.

Within the Technical & Scientific Cell of the KCCE one was meanwhile working on an action plan ‘Technical assistance’ aiming to better inform the relief workers in the field. This action plan is based on 4 pillars:

  • The development of an ISO standard for the recognition of the different sorts of driving force (symbols and pictograms);

  • The development of an ISO standard for the uniform provision of information for firefighters (‘Rescue sheet’ and ‘Emergency Response Guide’);

  • The development of a training that meets the actual needs;

  • Research regarding best practices and uniform procedures.

The multifaceted contacts with international organizations, car manufacturers, the industry and of course the relief workers themselves, sparked the interest of CTIF.

This international association is known as the ‘International Association for Fire & Rescue Services’. It was founded in 1900 in Paris and represents currently 40 countries in the world. In different working groups and commissions plenty of subjects are discussed under the slogan ‘Skilled Firefighters – Safe Citizens’. The main goal of the organization is to share knowledge worldwide in order to ensure safe citizens thanks to trained firefighters.

It was the president of CTIF, Tore Eriksson (Sweden), who asked the KCCE to be allowed to support and facilitate this important pioneering work. As he was so impressed by the action plan and provisional result, he immediately proposed to create a new commission that would occupy itself with extrication and new vehicle technologies. The reason was simple: all relief workers in the world are confronted with the same issue!

In 2013 the ‘Commission for Extrication & New Technology’ was created. During the kick-off meeting Tom Van Esbroeck was chosen as the chairman and Kurt Vollmacher was the first project leader for the ISO project.

In the past few years the commission has intensively worked together with plenty of instances, organizations and authorities. Meanwhile there are also projects regarding solar panels, batteries & fuel cells, the extrication technique, Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Program for the safety of new cars on the market) and Artificial Intelligence.

What is most important is of course the feedback towards the basis: the relief workers in the field! The first results are now noticeable in the form of trainings such as: hybrid and electric vehicles, the training THV (technical assistance) in the new course fireman and sergeant, the procedure 'fighting car fires', …

Through the new working group THV of the KCCE, the implementation of the newly developed courses, trainings and procedures will be further coordinated, of course in cooperation and dialogue with the instructors and training institutes. The entirety is dynamic: everything changes so fast that one cannot hold to the manner in which one created trainings in the past.

Through CTIF Belgium and the firefighters’ federations, Tom and Kurt will regularly spread information in the form of an article or a report. All feedback on these articles or remarks, suggestions and propositions regarding extrication and alternative energy sources are welcome.

Fifteen nationalities meet every two years to share and spread knowledge and experiences.

The Commission also regularly organizes interesting lectures at several international conferences and meetings (China, Iran, Germany, USA, France, Italy, …)


The Editors:

Since they met one another as young firefighters, Tom Van Esbroeck and Kurt Vollmacher share a common passion: the part of the technical assistance that deals with the extrication of persons trapped or the deployment procedure regarding traffic accidents.

The steady rise of alternative driving forces made the interest and passion grow even more. The fire brigades are in fact not sufficiently informed on these new technologies and the accompanying specific dangers. It is the aim to change this.


“Knowledge is proud that it knows so much; wisdom is humble that it knows no more”


(William Cowper, English poet, 1731-1800)