The rescue plan must stay in force!
In an interview with SI, safety expert Florian Immoos talks about urban cableways rescue operations, the training involved and why special devices are often necessary.
Si Urban: Mr. Immoos, your company, IMMooS GmbH, exports safety concepts, rescue systems and personal protec- tive equipment for cableways to over 30 countries. To what extent is a rescue operations on an urban cableway different from the evacuation of an alpine installation?
”Rescuers cannot a ord do fail in the basics.” – Florian Immoos makes the case for regular rescue exercises. Photo: SI/Surrer
Florian Immoos: Whenever possible, the exact same standard methods are utilized – such as simple lowering of passengers on a rope. However, roads, buildings and power lines usually preclude this type of rescue in a city. This is why we often have to move the passengers along the cable and can rope them down only at the towers or above unobstructed terrain. For this purpose, the rescuers climb the towers, slide along the cable to the cabins and transport the guests to the next suitable point of descent by rope.
Are special devices necessary to do that?
Yes, because the areas spanned by an urban cableway are usually very large and level. So neither gravity – such as in the mountains – nor the distance between the towers and cabins help us here. To get to the cabins fast, the rescuers must move themselves forward with the help of a winch or cable carriage. Our self-propelled SS1 type rescue carriage is especially well-suited for such cases.
In what way?
With the motorized SS1, the rescuer can get to the cabin independently without the help of another person. Even inclines of up to 20 percent, which are very common with urban cableways, do not represent any problem. With additional special material, the rescuer can then, little by little, tow the passengers along. The most courageous passengers – usually youths – are evacuated rst to build up trust on the side of those who are more anxious. And then, little by little, the rest.
Do passengers travelling by urban cableways present a greater challenge than passengers on alpine installations?
Handling the passenger is one of the most di cult parts but it does not really make any di erence where the rescue is taking place. Especially because it is also no longer only tough, sporty people that are transported in the mountains but also small children or handicapped per- sons. Both in the city and in the mountains, the passive rescue system is applied – the passenger cannot intervene in his own evacuation at any moment. Everything is done by the rescuers. Diffculties are much more often caused by other circumstances such as the presence of curious on-lookers, failing communication among the rescuers or mishandling of infrastructure.
Immoos also supplies climbing protection systems. Photo: IMMOOS
Could you give us an example of the latter case?
Access to the towers in cities must be protected much more strictly so that children or reckless people cannot climb them. In Turkey, for example, rescuers can only climb up inside the towers of one of the cableways. The doors to get there are locked. In an emergency, the rescuer must always have the right key available. Something like that would not work without a well-thought-through rescue plan.
How does one put together a rescue plan – and what does it contain?
An urban cableway operator may initially not even be aware of the fact that a rescue plan is required by law; it is usually supplied by the cableway manufacturer as part of an all-inclusive package. The manufacturers often get such plans from our company, IMMOOS. We receive a lon- gitudinal pro le of the cableway with details about the sur- roundings and prepare a rough chronological plan on the basis of such data.
In doing that, we have to abide by the relevant European standards which are used globally. Under such standards, the evacuation of a cableway cannot take longer than 210 minutes – less 30 minutes reaction time. On the basis of the chronological plan, the manner of rescue, the number of rescuers and the quantity of material are determined.
So how many rescuers are needed on average?
It is impossible to generalize as it depends on very many different factors, such as the height, utilization rate, distances, or the model of the cableway. However, compared to alpine rescue actions, signi cantly more rescuers are often needed for urban cableways as their utilization rate is usually 100 percent in both directions.
In extreme cases, we need twice as many rescue team members. We must prepare a sack with materials for each individual rescue sector, containing not only devices and equipment but also detailed instructions.
immoos trains rescue teams around the globe. Photo: IMMOOS
But such instructions do not replace training.
Correct. When we supply our certi ed products for the rst time, initial training is even required by law. We organize a week-long course on site held in German, French or English. If necessary, an interpreter is also involved. Executive trainings make the most sense: six rescuers are trained personally and very intensively who later train their own staff. Later on, passenger rescues must be practiced at least once every year, certain parts of it even more often.
But urban cableways usually run nearly 365 days a year, more frequent exercises cannot be possible.
Indeed, larger exercises are usually conducted at night or during maintenance periods but grips and motion sequences can also be performed during regular operation. For example, some cableway operators hang a practice cabin in the garage or let their team learn to handle all the different devices in the station. After all, rescuers cannot a ord to fail in the basics.
In Madeira, cableway operators have even created an external training area. The experience gained during such exercises is little by little included in their rescue plans. This is because these operators have come to understand that the rescue plan must stay in force!
Cableways are considered very safe. Is all this e ort worthwhile?
A cableway evacuation happens rarely but it is not unknown. Last year, an urban cableway had to be evacuated. Since then, the operators trust that we can help them improve the quality of rescues with our expertise.
We have prepared around 30 rescue plans for urban installation, supplied the relevant material and conducted trainings – among other places in Algeria, South Korea, Turkey, Vietnam, Columbia and Myanmar. Even the cableway on the Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Ja- neiro has placed its trust on our know-how. the interview was conducted by Thomas Surrer,