Imagine you’re walking along a narow hiking track, high up in the mountains. The edge crumbles… and you slip off. Or you look the wrong way crossing and street, and…! Have you ever wondered what happens next? Who will come and help you? How do the emergency services work in Tyrol?

The world can be a pretty dangerous place, and unfortunately accidents do happen sometimes! It’s easy to say, ‘nothing will happen to me’ but what if it does? What if the worst happens? Well, Tyrol has got that covered!

Training with the Tyrolean Emergency Services

On July 14th the six major emergency rescue organizations of Tyrol got together for an unprecedented joint training exercise, which had almost 30 trauma and injury scenarios simulated all over Innsbruck in order to test and sharpen the skills of Tyrol’s first responders.

The scenarios were not pre-advised to the first responders and varied in severity from a person falling and breaking their hip, to an explosion in a auto repair garage. There were even simulated motorcycle accidents where a victim ended up trapped under a tree, as well as water rescues.

I was one of a larger group of people who tried to flex their acting skills and make the injuries seem as real as possible in order to really test the first responders. All of the emergency services had to work together on the bigger scenarios, which saw the Samariter, Malteser, Johanniter, Red Cross Austria, fire department and mountain rescue team working together to save the day!

Rise And Shine!

I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into, when I told myself that I would help. Turning up at 830am on a Saturday morning was not on the top of my list of things to do on a weekend, but I had said yes, and couldn’t break my promise. There were make-up artists and a room full of volunteers ready to act their hearts out!

A massive plan had been made to make sure that everything happened with precision, and they made every effort to make sure that everything was safe, monitored and most importantly a surprise to the first responders so that everything felt as real as possible.

The volunteer victims were told what their injuries were and the back-story to what caused it. We were all told to make it as real as possible, to scream in pain, to act loopy when given medications and take care on the details, do your best to never break character! The make up was surprisingly real, I found myself limping when no one was even looking, until I remembered it was only make up.

Make-up bag

The make-up artists made things as real as possible, adding blood and exposed bone, it was impressive!

First training scenario: car explosion

Emergency services training for a car explosion scenario

The garage filled with ‘smoke’ from the explosion, the stage was set!

The first scenario I was assigned to was a car explosion in a repair garage. Four “victims” and two “witnesses” were driven to a garage, there was a man that should act severely burned on his chest, a woman with a badly burned arm, a woman unconscious from smoke inhalation and me, who was thrown down the stairs to the basement and hurt my ankle.

I waited in the basement as fog was pumped in to the garage to simulate smoke. The smoke alarm started to sound and the emergency call was made, and here we go! It didn’t take long before the fire department found me, carried me out and the Samariter took over to diagnose my injury and treat me while the other first responders attended to the other ‘victims.’

I have been very lucky in life, and never experienced first hand any major trauma; it was fascinating to watch them work as a unit and manage the situation.

Rescue on the Roof

Tyrolean fire services train for an emergency roof rescue

The fire department put me on the roof, little did I know, I would soon be dangling from that basket!

After going back to headquarters, I was quickly reassigned as a rooftop leg break victim. I was transported out to a very tall building where a fire truck crane transported me to the roof with a liaison. He explained my scenario and what my injury would be, telling me that after they gave me pain medicine I should act loopy and ‘drugged up’ as it would be very strong drugs for a leg break with an exposed bone!

The first responders arrived and I started my acting, screaming at the top of my lungs due to my ‘broken leg.’ Firemen and the Red Cross worked together to treat my injuries, checked my status and for further injuries, fake intubated me, and ultimately transported me on a backboard to the fire truck crane in order to lower me from the roof, with an emergency doctor hanging from the crane with me. Once on the ground they treated me further until the scenario was announced as over and successful.

Rescued from the roof by the Tyrolean Fire Brigade

Getting ready to be lowered off the roof, making sure the ropes were fixed and everyone was ready!

From road accidents to water safety

Tyrolean emergency services get together for joint training exercise

Most scenarios had multiple organizations working together to save the day! Teamwork was the mame of the game!

There was a wide variety of situations simulated to test their precision and efficiency and it was fascinating to witness.

A friend of mine had simulated being trapped under a tree after a motorcycle accident, and got to witness as the mountain rescuers managed to lift the tree and transport his ‘unconscious body’ to safety. Another volunteer simulated an attempted suicide in the river, with water rescuers then diving in and initiating a rescue.

I had never really thought about what would happen if anything should happen to me. What happens if someone gets in trouble, is trapped, is injured in Tyrol, how that would work. Well, I don’t have to wonder anymore, as I have witnessed first-hand how amazing, brave, and talented the first responders of Tyrol are!

Fire truck with crane

It is absolutely amazing to watch these brave men and women work! So happy I could be a part of it!

Here’s hoping you never have to find out first-hand how these brave individuals work, but it’s pretty comforting to know just how amazing and skilled they are!


All Photos: @Laura Wunsch