German states field advanced lifesaving equipment amid terror threats
By DAN STOUTAMIRE AND MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 15, 2016
WIESBADEN, Germany — Several German states have begun to equip their ambulances with special emergency kits to be able to provide special medical treatment in case of a terrorist attack, according to a report by Bavarian newspaper Mittelbayerische Zeitung.
Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Berlin have all undertaken an initiative to have every ambulance ready if rescue workers have to deal with people severely injured in bomb explosions or similar attacks.
All rescue units now possess tourniquets in place of previously-used triangular bandages, said Florian Meier of the Bavarian Red Cross. It’s an advantagebecause the bandages were more complicated to use, whereas tourniquets are “immediately ready to use,” he said. They can also be used by a wounded person on him or herself, as they only require one hand to attach.
Stefan Frey, a spokesman with Bavaria’s Interior Ministry, said the ministry came up with the recommendation to update the rescue organizations’ gear in June. “The attacks in Paris in 2015 and in Brussels in 2016 made clear that Europe — and this also means Germany — are under the threat of a worldwide terrorism,” Frey said.
In creating the new kits, the states drew on lessons from the conflict in Afghanistan. German forces have been part of the coalition there since the early stages and have suffered nearly 60 deaths since 2002.
The emergency kits contain equipment similar to what German and U.S. militaries use in in combat situations: tourniquets, compress bandages, lightweight braces, slings and litters to quickly transport casualties to a hospital or other care facility.
The same emphasis on treating injuries from explosions is now found in the United States, where the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines to first responders highlights the threat of improvised explosive devices and the use of tourniquets and anti-bleeding agents to prevent the loss of life in their immediate aftermath.
“Experience in combat casualty care gained by the U.S. military during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ... has resulted in a vast amount of knowledge pertaining to the management of explosive injury and gunshot wounds,” according to the department’s guide for first responders, published in June 2015.
About 1,000 ambulances in Bavaria have been equipped with the new emergency kit since October, said Hanna Hutschenreiter, a spokeswoman with Bavarian Red Cross. “We have heard for months that the terrorist threat is real in Germany,” Huteschenreiter said. “As the largest rescue organization, we have to be prepared.”
The state of Hessen, home to U.S. Army Europe’s Headquarters in Wiesbaden, is not part of the initiative, but its first responders are similarly equipped and will be adding to their kits next year.
Michael Schaich, a spokesman with Hessen’s Interior Ministry, said that beginning in 2017, every rescue worker with the police’s rescue forces will receive a “leg bag,” which will include two tourniquets and a bandage that stops bleeding.
Rhineland-Pfalz, which is host to several U.S. bases, including Ramstein Air Base, is taking a similar tack. There have so far been no attacks in Germany on the scale of the November 2015 Paris attacks or the March 2016 Brussels airport and metro bombings. But there was a spate of attacks this summer.
A failed asylum seeker detonated a suicide bomb outside a wine bar in the Bavarian city of Ansbach, wounding 12. Near a Munich shopping center, a lone gunman killed nine people and an Afghan refugee attacked people with ax on a train near Wuerzburg, injuring four before being shot by police.
A German soldier from the 291st Infantry Division practices applying a tourniquet to a fellow soldier at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 6, 2014. Several German states have begun to equip their ambulances with special military-inspired emergency kits.
JOHN CRESS/U.S. ARMY