Developer Maik Halbe is involved in the volunteer fire department

It is impossible to say exactly how many people in Germany do volunteer work. Estimates range - depending on the definition - from 16 to 29 million. What is certain, however, is that without their commitment, social cohesion would suffer considerably. One of these people is Maik Halbe. The 44-year-old IT expert, who has been part of the development team at eks Engel for almost ten years, has been a member of the volunteer fire department in the municipality of Wenden since 1992.

As a teenager, Maik Halbe decided to become involved in volunteer work. "I decided to join the volunteer fire department back then because I wanted to help fellow human beings in dangerous and sometimes even life-threatening situations," he recounts in retrospect, adding, "I was also interested in the technical equipment required for this and in working together in critical situations, where it's important that everyone can rely on each other one hundred percent."

Employer supports voluntary commitment

In order to meet the diverse demands of a firefighter, Maik Halbe and his comrades train in theory and practice once a week after work, interrupted only by school vacations. Training courses take place mainly on weekends, but sometimes also during working hours. "However, this is usually only the case for leadership courses, which take place at the Institute of the Fire Service in Münster and last one or two weeks each," he explains.

Even though such measures are agreed upon with his employer in advance, this does not leave no trace in the operational processes. But eks Engel gives him time off anyway. This is because the company fully supports Maik Halbe's voluntary commitment, and the loss of pay is reimbursed to him by the municipality of Wenden as the responsible body for the volunteer fire department. The same applies when things get serious. Since every minute can then count, the employer naturally no longer has any say in the matter, but the developer is allowed to leave his workplace immediately.

Operations sometimes get under the skin

In the past 30 years, Maik Halbe has participated in a total of around 450 operations, the longest of which lasted six days. These have included fires in buildings and forest areas as well as clean-up work after hurricanes and traffic accidents with trapped people. "This not only places high demands on physical ability, but also requires strong nerves," he says. "Because it already gets under your skin when people are affected or even die."

Although the volunteer commitment in Germany is impressive, as mentioned at the beginning, fewer and fewer people are willing to join volunteer fire departments. "In some cases, municipalities are even going so far as to compulsorily enlist residents on a statutory basis," says Maik Halbe. At the same time, he notes during his missions that people increasingly do nothing in emergency situations, preferring to take pictures with their cell phones. Therefore his appeal: "Everyone can send an emergency call without having to fear that they will be held responsible later.

19Aug2022/ Julia Gieseler
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