Balsthal (ots) - Switzerland not only builds the longest tunnels
in the world, but also wants to offer users maximum safety: in
Balsthal (SO) and Lungern (OW), training facilities are currently
being constructed in which rescue organizations can optimally prepare
for deployment in underground transportation systems.
In order to effectively rescue people and fight fires, fire
departments must be able to access underground transportation
facilities like tunnels, garages or train stations in all conditions.
Therefore, emergency response services like fire departments,
ambulances and police require comprehensive theoretical training. In
addition, the Swiss Federal Office for Roads (ASTRA) had already
called for the construction of a practice tunnel for response
services in the year 2000 - a consequence of the catastrophic fires
in the Tauern and Mont Blanc tunnels.
Over 1000 Meters of Tunnels and Pathways to Practice
In the summer of 2005, ASTRA commissioned the Basellandschaftliche
Gebäudeversicherung and the Solothurnische Gebäudeversicherung, as
agencies of the inter-cantonal fire department training centre ifa,
to build practice facilities for emergency response services as well
as develop a comprehensive teaching program for application in
underground transportation situations in partnership with the Gasser
Felstechnik AG, in the Balsthal (Solothurn Canton) and Lungern
(Obwalden Canton) sites.
A fire tunnel is currently being constructed in the Brunig
mountain in Lungern. In Balsthal, construction has begun on a
combined road and rail tunnel with an integrated training garage.
Both sites will offer a labyrinth of more than 1000 meters, in which
all conceivable operations in all types of underground transportation
facilities may be practiced: from fires in garages, accidents
involving hazardous materials in street tunnels, derailments in rail
tunnels, to explosions in underground train stations and shopping
To simulate fires, the ifa relies on environmentally friendly
gas-fire technology. The steel of the mock passenger cars, trucks,
coaches and rail cars is heated, and the temperature in the training
area rises to 400 degrees Celsius. Although the flames are real,
non-toxic training smoke is used to fill the space. This way, the
health risks for users, as well as environmental consequences, are
reduced to a minimum. The heat, smoke and degree of difficulty can be
precisely controlled, so that the trainees are adequately challenged,
but not overwhelmed.
A Competence Centre in The Heart of Europe
The test operations are to begin in Lungern in 2008, and in
Balsthal in 2009. During the first two years, the main goal of the
ifa is to train the fire departments responsible for the Swiss
highway and rail tunnels, and to be available for the ambulance,
police and other emergency response services. In the medium term, the
ifa expects to welcome fire departments from all over Europe.
The training facilities in Balsthal and Lungern will cost about 35
million Swiss Francs and will be financed by the Federation.
Infrastructure such as changing rooms, respiratory protection
stations, canteens and accommodation will be made available in
Balsthal by ifa, and in Lungern by Gasser Felstechnik AG.
ots Originaltext: ifa Tunnel
Director Urs Kummer
Klus Industrial Park