Last year, the Berlin fire brigade had to deal with the highest number of operations in its 170-year history. This emerges from the 2021 annual report presented on Thursday. Specifically, there were 492,226 missions, 22,000 more than in the previous year. On average, there were 1349 missions per day. The fire brigade was called to an operation every 64 seconds. An emergency call came in every 29 seconds – almost 1.1 million in total.

The burden has increased, particularly in the case of emergency rescue. 86 percent of the operations concern the rescue service. Here the number of bets increased by almost seven percent and rose to 424,361.

The result: a state of emergency is declared almost every day because there are not enough ambulances and personnel available. However, there were also numerous misoperations in which the ambulances drove out in vain. This happened 21,788 times last year. There has been a slight increase in calls for technical assistance, for example in the event of accidents.

The fire brigade had to respond to an average of two fires per hour last year. Nevertheless, there was a decrease in fire operations – by 20 percent to 6843. The number is almost back to the level of 2019, because in 2020 there was a significant increase of 27 percent. Positive trend: fewer people died in fires. In 2021 it was 16, the lowest level in ten years.

“We are reaching our limits,” said state fire director Karsten Homrighausen. “We still manage to be there for the people. Behind every operation there is a person who asks for our help”.

The number of missions increased by 54 per day last year. The fire brigade must be prepared to soon reach half a million calls, said Homrighausen.

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The seriousness of the situation in the rescue service, where the fire brigade has so far had no means of dealing with the numerous states of emergency, was shown at the press conference on Thursday: during the speech by Senator for the Interior Iris Spranger (SPD), the fire brigade once again declared a state of emergency internally.

This is declared when the ambulances are 80 percent full and the specified arrival time of ten minutes with the patient can hardly be met. Then more ambulances are put into service by firefighters. In 2020 this happened 64 times, in 2021 the number tripled to 178 times.

This number should already be reached by the middle of the year this year. By mid-May there were already 120. In addition, the states of emergency are taking longer and longer, sometimes lasting all day. This year there have already been days when suddenly only one ambulance was available for the entire city.

In an emergency, this can have serious consequences for those affected – if they have to wait for the ambulance. The specification that an ambulance should be at its destination within ten minutes after the emergency call was made was only achieved by 48.8 percent. This is the lowest level since 2017. At that time, the statistics had been changed – and the time limit was also softened. By 2016, eight minutes had been the target. In 2017, 59 percent of the bets reached ten minutes. The target number is 90 percent.

Since then, the number has been falling rapidly. On average, the ambulances need 10.6 minutes – that means: In many cases it takes much longer. If you calculate the arrival time of the ambulances from the aid organizations and the Bundeswehr hospital, it is even 11.51 minutes for the fire brigade.

Homrighaus did not have a short-term solution ready. When asked what he explains to Berliners when help comes too late for a patient because once again there was no ambulance, he answered evasively. There is no legal claim to the targets, he said and: “There is no such thing as absolute security.” On the other hand, he explained that the fire brigade had to help. One problem is emergency calls for trifles such as small cuts, bruises, abdominal pain or headaches.

Homrighausen was unable to provide concrete figures on this and how often callers actually had to be treated in the hospital. That should now be evaluated. “20 percent of the operations do not end with a transport to the hospital and no one knows why,” commented the German Fire Brigade Union (DFeuG). She criticized the fact that the management of the authorities did not even mention that the employees were overworked.