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Fall from great height in narrow gap between houses

Category: National Firefighting Team of the Year

Fire department: Freiwillige Feuerwehr Erbach (Hesse)

Operation: Personal rescue in narrow gap between houses

On Sunday, August 13, 2017, the air temperature was already 15°C shortly after the 06:11 am sunrise and there was a light wind from the south. Shortly after 6 am, the central despatch in the Odenwald region in Erbach received an emergency call. A person had fallen from a great height on Jahn St. The despatcher opened a rescue operation with the keyword “R2” and called for both an RTW and a Red Cross EMS vehicle stationed in Erbach. After arriving at the location, the crew of the first vehicle obtained the necessary rescue tools and gained access to the injured person via a narrow construction gap between two buildings. The person was located on the rear of two ledges in a 30-40 cm gap between house numbers 8 and 10. Because only a makeshift supply, but no rescue, of the person was possible through this gap, the fire department was called. 

The Erbach FD received the alarm at 6:20 am via pager: “H1 – human rescue with turntable ladder”. In accordance with the alarm and response regulations, members from the one-kilometre distant FD made their way to the destination with an ELW 1 (1:1), DLK 23-12 (1:2) and LF 16/12 (1:4). Due to extensive construction work on Road B45, which crosses through the city, the site had to be approached from the main road. Wrongly parked automobiles significantly delayed the passage of the large firetrucks.

The head of operations who arrived on the scene first with the ELW 1 contacted the emergency medical service. The EMS indicated that the injured person’s condition allowed a gentle rescue. Due to the location of the injured person in connection with the construction situation, a turntable ladder rescue was not possible. It turned out, however, that house no. 8 had a window facing the front ledge.

The first option to be discussed was a rescue with a basket stretcher and scaling ladder parts via the window in house no. 8. The crew of the LF 16/12 was entrusted with gaining access to the object and further exploring this option. Because the house was uninhabited at the time of deployment, the police were called and the object forcibly opened. During the further planning, however, this option had to be rejected because the person could not be relocated onto the front ledge because the gap was too narrow. In the meantime, access to another ledge circa three metres higher was found, but it was inaccessible due to a mesh iron gate at house no.10. Now, a rescue via the ascent and descent tool set was initiated. For this, a crew member with “Fall Protection” qualification was ordered to the scene, and all crew members already at the site who had additional training were assembled.

To accomplish the actual rescue, the following tasks were assigned:

  • Forced opening of the mesh iron gate with a cutter
  • Exploration of possible anchor points for the ascent and descent tool set
  • Provision of a fall protection tool set for crew members working at dangerous heights
  • Moving the victim in a KED system


After opening the gate, there was still no obvious anchor point at first glance. The only possibility was to create an anchor point on a strong wooden beam using a window and roof construction as support. During this time, the vital parameters of the injured person were deteriorating, necessitating a faster rescue.

After attaching the injured person to the KED system and readying the ascent and descent tool set, the person was brought to the higher ledge and transported to the street-level stretcher using a basket stretcher.

One hour and ten minutes after notification of the fire department, the person had been freed and transferred to the ambulance. He was taken to the hospital in Erbach for further treatment.